Making Blankets
for Soldiers

My Adopted

Cup o' Joe
to a Soldier

K9 Heroes


Soldiers' Angels Display a Booth at the
Barrington Military Tribute Event, Wed, August 24, 2011

I'm a member of several groups...Soldiers' Angels, Patriot Guard Riders, Warrior Watch, US War Dogs, and Families of Fallen Soldiers. On August 24th I was representing Soldiers' Angels (SA). I'd volunteered to organize a group of SA volunteers to wo/man a booth at the nearby Barrington Park District Military Tribute event. Then just prior to the event, I managed to run a very large, very sharp knife through my ring finger while cooking...so I was working with one 'paw.' It was frustrating and I needed all the help I could get to get things organized at the site without further damaging my hand.

I'd planned to sew two 'Banners of Hope' for the event. But realizing sewing works better with two hands; I had to slow down and was only able to design/sew one the day before. Soldiers' Angels regularly create Blankets of Hope to send to wounded soldiers to help show them how much they're loved to help speed their recovery. But with only one paw, I had to limit my endeavor to a 'banner.' I made this quilted 'greeting card' and added cloth rings at the top so a rod could be inserted to allow the banner to be hung in the room of a wounded soldier.

A little batting (padding) and a camo fleece backing helped ensure that magic marker text would not bleed through the fabric. I also wanted to ensure that the Soldiers' Angels logo was on the quilt so I used a method I discovered sometime ago. By taking freezer paper and a smooth white fabric, you can iron the freezer paper to the cloth, cut to 8.5 x 11 and then feed the fabric through a color laser printer thereby allowing you to print content from your computer on to cloth, which can then be cut and sewn into your quilt or other craft projects. The image doesn't come out as dark as colored fabric, but you can get the point across, which this did.

The approximate 1 hr drive from my home allowed me to arrive nice and early, around 4pm. The band was just arriving.

This semi truck is, I believe, owned by the father of one of the local fallen soldiers. So he had it painted with the faces/names of a local fallen soldier from each military branch, all from this same McHenry County. He parked it along the side of the event as a memorial reminder that war hits home.

This is Joe the lead singer (and a very good one, too!) of his band...Joe Cantafio & the 101st Rock Division Band. As he put it, after 9/11 he wanted to enlist but he was too old. So thinking of how he could contribute, he decided music at military events like this was a good way to try to give back to our brave heroes. See http://www.joecantafio.com/ for more information.

The Barrington, IL Park District is not only large, but quite beautiful! Their 'amphitheater' area is really nice. Since I was first to show up I put dibs on the first booth, which was also the only blue booth, so we had a bit of a distinction.

Just some additional shots showing what a beautiful day it was, although it could have been a bit cooler. It was near 100 dF in the afternoon, but, thankfully, nicely cooled off for the evening.

Some of our first visitors to the booth. Angel Jessica helps them write notes and design cards for soldiers. This gentleman thought it was such a great idea, he sat and wrote out several cards. I believe he was retired military himself.

Angel Rhonda wears a back-brace so sitting is difficult for her. She busied herself going around 'capturing' folks and engaging them in conversations about Soldiers' Angels and directing them to our booth. She had to leave early due to chronic pain in her back, at which time I took over the 'barker' duties helping direct people to our booth to sign cards and our quilt, as well as pass out brochures about Soldiers' Angels.

I'm thankful to Angel Lauren who had more experience than I regarding setting up the booth. She had the bungee cords to display our Soldiers' Angels sign. I have tons of cords at home, but didn't know/think to bring any. Live and learn for the next time!

Lauren also had some very nice posters and signs she'd made over time that provided details about some of the various Soldiers' Angels groups such as the sewing and crochet groups, as well as details about adopting a soldier and sending care packages.

She neatly set up one side of the booth with various pieces of information and items that visitors could purchase...from cute, little military rubber ducks for the kids to Angel T-shirts and various pins and coins representing numerous military groups to flags, SA bracelets and car magnets. I wouldn't have thought to setup these items nor did I have them to setup. But Lauren's effort brought in an additional $53 in sales for the benefit of Soldiers' Angels.

Each of us sported one of the variety of SA T-shirts.

More shots of the beautiful park. In the background the Warrior Watch motorcycles were starting the show by 'bringing in the THUNDER' to get the attention of the crowd. They would then form a 'flag stand' to help support the event.

Here they come!

Warrior Watch's (WW) Northern Illinois ride captain, Matt, and his little daughter, Alea, lead the THUNDER.

WW rounds the back of the stage and pulsl around to where they pick up a flag and form their line.

Our colors are brought in by the Lake County Marine Corps League. As Matt from WW put it "their average age is 65 and I am never unimpressed by their precision. TRUE Marines and heroes all!"

Joe leads us in our National Anthem.

A few military dignitaries give the crowd some perspective on what's going on 'over there' and what our wo/men of the military do and endure during their deployments.

The view from our booth location.

As I went around the crowd talking to people I explained to them how much the soldiers would like to hear from them. These girls originally thought no one would care what they had to say, but I assure them that...YES...soldiers love to hear about what we're doing to enjoy the freedoms they are providing for us. They want to forget about the war and think about what's up at home...to live vicariously through our eyes to help them forget about what they are currently enduring on our behalf. I told the girls they could even write on the envelope 'to any female soldier' to help ensure that their teenage girl chatter would end up in the hands of someone who would most appreciate what they had to say. They thought that was 'cool'...so they made a point of heading over and writing out a few letter cards to female soldiers.

The band leader paid tribute to all military members in the audience...asking each era member to stand so the crowd could acknowledge them and give thanks to them by applause. First the WWII members, then Korea, Nam, Gulf Wars and now our two current wars, as well as any members would may have been active during non war periods. They're all heroes!

Joe called up the members of Warrior Watch to help him sing "Monday, Monday" on stage. Great fun and these 'big bad (HA!) bikers' shyly slipped on stage to help backup Joe with some, ahem, fair singing.<hee, hee>

Music went on into the evening with the day closing out around 8:30pm. I was happy that I managed to wrangle Joe into announcing that Soldiers' Angels had a booth and we'd like everyone to stop by to sign a free card for a soldier. That was great and helped drive more traffic to our booth near the end of the day. (Just in time for the mosquitoes to hit!<sigh> I may not have known about the bungee cords, but I did know/remember to bring the bug spray, so we survived!)

I believe this older gentleman was former military and he touched my heart as he wrote some poignant words of encouragement on our 'get well' quilt.

Lauren and Allison worked the 'sales' side of the booth, Jessica helped visitors sign cards as Cathy helped people sign the quilt and made sure that those who did received a SA bracelet, while I took over after Rhonda left working the crowd to draw as many people as I could to our booth.

As the mosquitoes invaded, we broke out the flashlights and started to clean up. Thankfully, soon one of the park guys drove his cart up and turned on the lights so we could see all our stuff to safely pack it away.

On the table you can see a part of one of my American Flag lapghans. It was one that wasn't quite finished as I wanted to show potential crochet members how I make my 'lapghans' that I mostly bring to VA hospitals for wounded soldiers and vets as part of the crochet team from Soldiers' Angels. (I'm a member of many SA teams: adoption, sewing, crochet, top-knot (crochet for military babies), letter writing and ePal).

The 'Banner of Hope' turned out to be a big success. It brought us lots of beneficial comments and some donations, as well as caused more than one visitor to shed a tear or two as I explained how we'd send it to Germany to have hung in the room of a wounded soldier in need of this type of encouragement.

This photo deserves a little special notation and a story...

At the Barrington Military Tribute, the Warrior Watch cycles were lead by Matt, N. IL Ride Captain, and his daughter, Alea. During the event, Matt discovered this vet...a WWII B-17 Veteran. He said he had NEVER received a "Welcome Home" until just then! He's waited some 65+ yrs for this THANKS! Better late than never, but we must NEVER do this again, America...miss a chance to just say THANK YOU!

Later I saw the above photo on Matt's WW Facebook page and added...

Wow! I noticed the chair this guy is sitting in! He's the sweet (no pun) guy I met/was talking to. He was so cute! I went over to the group to hang an Angel's brochure to and he got up. I figured he was going to walk by someone else. Then he turned to me, as I was stooping down to chat with the younger woman seated next to him about SA, and he offered me his chair. HE OFFERED *ME* *HIS* CHAIR! I smiled and said "Oh No, No...please have a seat, relax!" As I nervously watched him reaching back for the arm of the chair to sit (thinking of my 91 yr old mom doing the same and missing!) I watched and waited until I started to continue my SA chatter with the woman. He looked at me and said...Are you sure? I said NO. Then he said<lol> 'How about you sit on my lap?' ROFL! He gave a devilish grin to the young woman next to him and said "Well, I ain't dead yet so I gotta keep trying to win the ladies, right?" We all cracked up!

I didn't recognize him until I just noticed the chair...then remember the "sweet" hat cos' I was looking to see if he had any 'vet-type' logos that would identify him as having served, which I just assumed he must have!

Now I hope to again find him because I'd like to present him with one of my American Flag lapghans. He is certainly deserving of one!

Media Coverage

The event and Soldiers' Angels captured a little publicity as a few local newspapers and online media outlets reported on the event. (Note: Since the story web links will only be available for 30 days before the details are rotated offline, I've snagged a few words from each so we can keep their SA comments here for the record.)

"The event offered those in attendance a chance to have their faces painted, order dog tags and make holiday cards for soldiers at a booth run by the Soldiers’ Angels organization."

"With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy right around the corner, the Barrington Park District will host a military tribute to celebrate Barrington’s hometown military heroes.

"The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Citizens Park with booths where families can get dog tags, kids can climb into a humvee, make holiday cards for soldiers at the Soldier’s Angels booth and get their faces painted with camouflage or American flags. On Occasion Catering will provide food for purchase. At 6:30 p.m., Joe Cantafio and the 101st Rock Division Band will take the stage following a presentation by the Lake County Marine Corps League Color Guard and Warrior Watch Riders. Throughout the concert, the band will welcome guest speakers to talk about the military and thank the community for its support.

"Among the guest speakers scheduled to appear are U.S. Army retired Lt. Gen. Randall Rigby, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tim Rainor and current U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Bruce Johnson, all from the Barrington area."

Although I doubt there is a worse photo of me out there in cyberspace, my sweet husband and daughter told me "Ah, you look fine and it's the sentiment that you are conveying that is important." Okay, I'll let this one slide for that reason.<g>

I'll assume these are Angel Lauren's words that were photographed for the photo slide show in one of the online media papers.

"Kids and adults were treated to patriotic face painting and attendees were invited to decorate cards for military personnel at the Soldier's Angels booth.

"A native of Barrington, Terry Jennings, executive director of the Barrington Park District, feels a strong bind to the United States military. Jenning's father, Lt. Commander Kenneth Steinmetz, fought under General George S. Patton* during World War II.

* Note that the founder of Soldiers' Angels, Patti Patton-Bader, just happens to be the grand niece of General George S. Patton!

"'My family has great respect for the military, so I'm honored to be here tonight, not just as the organizer, but as a United States citizen," Jennings said. "We thought it was important to remember 9/11 ten years later in a way that celebrates those who fought -- and continue to fight -- for our freedom.'"

Want to know more? Visit the Soldiers' Angel web site or feel free to email me at dian@mousetrax.com and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. Also, feel free to snoop around this web site more, as there's lots of great information right here to answer many of your questions, as well as inspire you to get involved!

~ Semper Fi ~

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