Women show warmth for U.S. soldiers

By on September 3, 2009

Knitters make helmet liners for troops in Afghanistan
by Martha Quetsch
Maple Park—When Karen Dowd learned to knit two years ago, she realized she had a talent for it. Since then, she has parlayed that skill into a patriotic pursuit.

At the suggestion of her husband, Maple Park American Legion Adjutant Tom Dowd, she formed a group last year to knit helmet liners for U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan.

“He always teased me about my knitting and said this would be a worthwhile way to spend my time,” Karen said.

She has found the project more than worthwhile.

“It has been extremely rewarding,” Karen said.

The helmet liners are designed to keep soldiers warm in the bitter-cold climate in the Afghanistan mountains.

“They put them on under their helmets so their heads stay warm, and they do not lose as much body heat,” Karen said.

To start up the project, she first found several knitters willing to pitch in and an affordable yarn supplier in Indiana. Then she found someone to make sure the helmet liners reached soldiers in Afghanistan: Maple Park Legion member Dennis Andersen.

Andersen, a former U.S. military reservist, currently is serving in Afghanistan, having signed up again for six years of active duty.

“He and I communicated online, and he said he knew a unit that could use the helmet liners,” Karen said. “We sent them to him, and he distributed them.”

Last year, the group knitted 70 helmet liners and sent them to Andersen. The soldiers who received them were so grateful, they sent the knitters a certificate of thanks and a flag that had flown over one of their missions.

Karen obtained the pattern and yarn specifications from the U.S. government. She said the liners must be made of a certain type of wool yarn. The yarn cost for the first batch of 70 liners was $300, which the Maple Park Legion covered. The group since then has raised money for yarn through donations at the Legion’s Friday fish fries. With those contributions, the knitters recently were able to buy enough yarn for 36 more helmet liners.

The government also requires the liners to be only certain colors—black, gray or tan.

In addition to Karen Dowd, the knitters include Norma Reynolds, Kay Dawn Towers, Rosie Krups and Rachel Neviell.

The Legion has paid the cost for mailing the helmet liners to Afghanistan.

Photo: Karen Dowd (left) and Norma Reynolds knit wool helmet liners at the Maple Park American Legion Tuesday. Monetary donations for more yarn for the local project will be accepted during Fun Fest at the Legion Hall. Photo by Martha Quetsch