One of the reasons we send little things like these flat bears!
Letter from a Marine Gunnery Sergeant in Iraq. It was sent on Dec. 27, 2004:
I just wanted to write to you and tell you a story about an experience we had over here.
As you know, I asked for toys for the Iraqi children and several people (Americans that support us) sent them over by the box-full. On each patrol we take through the city, we take as many toys as will fit in our pockets and hand them out as we can. The kids take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks. We are as friendly as we can be to everyone we see, but especially so with the kids. Most of them don’t have any idea what is going on and are completely innocent in all of this.
On one such patrol, our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street. This is not normal and is very unsafe, so the following vehicles began to inquire over the radio. The lead vehicle reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge. The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they did. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.
As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back. Feeling an immediate connection to the girl, I radioed that we were going to stop. The rest of the convoy paused and I got out the make sure she was OK. The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward me. As I knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a mine hidden in a pile of garbage down the road. Immediately a cordon was set as the Marine convoy assumed a defensive posture around the site. The IED was destroyed in place with no loss of life.
It was the heart of an American that sent that toy. It was the heart of an American that gave that toy to the little girl. It was the heart of an American that protected that convoy. Sure, she was a little Iraqi girl and she had no knowledge of purple mountain’s majesty or fruited plains. It was a heart of acceptance, of tolerance, of peace and grace, even through the inconveniences of conflict that saved our team. Those attributes are what keep Americans hearts beating. She may have no affiliation at anyone with the United States, but she knows what it is to be brave and if we can continue to support her and her new government, she will know what it is to be free. Isn’t that what Americans are, the free and the brave?
So, if you sent over a toy to a Marine (or any US Service member) you took part in this. You are a reason that Iraq has to believe in a better future. Thank you so much for supporting us and for supporting our cause over here.
P.S. This is not an unusual occurrence. We touch the lives of many children in the streets and in the hospitals and they touch our lives in return.
This particular little girl may not have received her bear from one of us in The Hugs Project, but we have sent many. This story explains why we are so committed to supporting our troops. I invite you to join us in this nationwide program to support our troops and save lives.
1. Trace outline on clear plastic to make a template.
2. Using template trace bears on right side of fabric—leave a little space between bears.
3. Make a bear sandwich—top fabric, fat quilt batting or stuffing, backing fabric OR top and a thick fuzzy back that won’t need much batting. Please make them fat enough that they are fun to play with but not so fat as to impede our troops’ movement when carried in a cargo pant leg pocket.
4. Sew on traced line. You may include a tag in your stitching. We have one you can download on www.TheHugsProject.net that is written in Arabic. It says, “To the children of Iraq (or Afghanistan) from the children of America”. Or just make a note that says, “To you from Sophia/Jason, etc.” Let the children add their name to make the gift more personal. We usually have school children draw on the faces.
5. Cut bears using pinking shears or pinking rotary cutter.
6. Draw on face and heart with permanent black and red markers.
We have adjust the size on a copier so that the bear is about 7″ tall. We use whatever fabric is donated that we cannot use for the troops. We accept all fabric donations. Any fabric we can’t use is shared with other organizations who make bags for foster children or make baby quilts and lap robes for the elderly.
We use a narrow zigzag to stitch the 3 layers together. We start on the left side of the top of the head and sew all the way around, we put a couple extra stitches at the ears and the neck to help define it. When we reach the place we started, we sew a wider zigzag from one ear to the other giving some of the bears a burr haircut. The girl bears get a lace necklace. The boys get bowties.
On the faces we put 3 small dots between the nose and mouth for whiskers and using a metallic silver marker we put glints in the eyes. Some people put eyebrows, smile lines, and other decorations. They let their artistic energies flow.
1. Reduce the size to 7″ tall and make a template (use cardboard, wood, clear plastic, etc.).
2. Trace the bear template all over the right side of a rather plain fabric (one on which the eyes, mouth and heart will be seen).
3. Stack 2 pieces of fabric (one ‘plain’ and one colorful, flocked, plush, etc) and quilt batting making a batting sandwich. Make the bear fat enough that it’s fun to play with and not merely flat. Have a child try out the first one for you and see if it’s fun. Alternately, lightly stuff the bear with fiberfill. Just fat enough to play with but not so fat that it impedes troops’ movement when carried in the knee cargo pocket.
4. Pin each bear a couple times and roughly cut around each bear OR pin the entire fabric sandwich in numerous places and stitch around each bear.
5. After stitching, cut around bear with pinking shears or a pinking rotary cutter (for a cute look) or regular scissors (lacking pinks).
6. Attach the paper tag (unless you already sewed it on).
7. Draw on faces and hearts (this is a great point to involve kids).