I was asked to write down how we got started on Operation Holiday Stockings, so I’ll do my best, hoping not to bore you.
Our oldest son, Dave, was deployed to Iraq in 2005. He left on April 12th, and it was a dark day for me. Before he left I asked him if I could knit him something and his response was “Thanks Mom, but I won’t need anything, the Army will supply me with everything I’ll need.”
When Dave was home on leave in October I again asked if I could knit something for him, and he again told me he had everything he needed.
I went along praying for his safety, and the safety of the troops he was responsible for.
While Dave was in Iraq I would get up early and be at my computer at 5:00 a.m. If he was going to be able to email me, it would be between 5:00-6:00 p.m. his time. It may have been early, but well worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning. It was my connection to know he was alright.
In the middle of November I had to get a thorn removed from the index finger on my right hand. That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, a friend, Susan, met up with me during my lunch hour to show me how to do circular knitting. When she walked into my office and saw this huge bandage on my finger, she put down the double point needles and handed me the circular needle and said let’s get started. By Friday night, I had knit a baby hat, and I was feeling real proud of myself. (In case you are wondering I taught myself to knit with the bandaged finger in a matter of seconds, just used another finger.).
That weekend David and I went over to Edgar’s Acres in Sequim. On Saturday morning at 4:30 I got up to make my coffee, and turn on the computer for the 5-6 hour, hoping to hear from Dave. It was November 19th. I did hear from Dave. He sent an email with this message:
“Hey mom, I have a huge favor to ask. I was wondering if you could knit about 230 small stockings for our Christmas “celebration.” That or send some Christmas decorations over. Our commander has asked us officers to come up with something that we can use to decorate our company areas for the Christmas season. They don’t have to be elaborate, just simple stockings. I figured you would know enough people that knit so that it wouldn’t be that hard, and I know that all of the soldiers would really appreciate it.”
I got up from the couch, picked up my coffee, got the dogs and we went outside for our walkabout. It was pitch black, and all of the stars were at my fingertips. I looked up and ask God “did you read what he just sent?” God’s reply was on point. “Mom, when your son is in Iraq, you don’t say no.”
I went back in and emailed back “just 230?”
I then emailed everyone I could think of. I emailed the Ample Knitters, Small Paws Rescue, yarn shops, all of my friends and family, and by 6:00 started knitting. Mind you I had NEVER knit a sock in my life. I fortunately had the Miracle Loop knitting book, 40” size 7 needles, and yarn, and knit up the class sock. It took all day.
I started getting responses by 7:30 that morning and we were on our way.
When I went into work on Monday and told Susan about this she told me “no worry, knitters won’t let you down, you will probably get over a 1000 stockings.”
In two weeks we ended up with over a 1,000 knit, crocheted, sewn, and decorated stockings for Dave’s company, and for a couple of others. A miracle happened.
We heard back from all of the soldiers and they were so thrilled we remembered them, and many cherished their stockings.
When Dave finally came home in March 2006, he had his stocking with him. He also had me promise to continue doing Operation Holiday Stockings until all of the troops returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The next year I asked Dave to find me some troops to send the stockings to, and he came back with a full brigade. When he spoke to the commanding officer about this project he asked “does your mother know how many are in a brigade?” Well, I didn’t until Dave told me it was about a 1000 soldiers. Dave’s response to the commanding officer was “she does, and it won’t be a problem for these ladies.”
In 2006 we ended up with over 1600 stockings.
In 2007, the enthusiasm and involvement was less, but we were still able to send out around 1200 stockings.
We sent one box of stockings to Major Rick, who is an officer in Special Forces, and was deployed to a very dangerous area in Afghanistan. One night Rick woke up his soldiers and told them they were moving out of their camp, which was next to the mail tent of the makeshift base. They were leaving for a mission, and he decided they needed to leave early. When they came back in three days, the area where their tent had been had been bombed, and the mail tent, and several others were destroyed as well. In this attack they lost 6 soldiers, and morale hit rock bottom. Two weeks before Christmas and no mail to be had.
They moved the camp, and the next week a box was delivered to Rick and in the box wre the stockings we had sent him. The soldiers were speechless, and so grateful. The box of stockings was all they had for the holidays last year. I saw Rick this summer and he told me that I will never know how much those stockings meant to the soldiers. They were feeling hopeless and forgotten. With the stockings they knew there were people back home who cared, loved them, and wished them well.
We are doing this project again. We have to. I have a promise to keep.
We would love to have you join us. I have attached the pattern I created so everyone can knit if they want (remember I had never knit a sock before November 19, 2005), together with a wish list for stocking stuffers. We also accept cash donations for postage. The postage has been around $900-1000 each year.
My contact information is below.
Thank you for helping to spread the word for this project.
OPERATION HOLIDAY STOCKING
Worsted Weight Yarn
Size 7 Needles
Skill Level: Advanced BeginnerRating: Easy
Cast on 28 stitchesKnit 6 rows (garter stitch)
Starting with right side, work 24 rows in Stockinette Stitch (SS)
Work short rows as follows:
Knit 18, turn
Purl 9, turn
Knit 10, turn
Purl 11, turn
Knit 12, turn
Purl 13, turn
Knit 14, turn
Purl 15, turn
Knit 16, turn
Purl 17, turn
Knit 18, turn
Purl 19, turn
Knit 20, turn
Purl 21, turn
Knit 22, turn
Purl 23, turn
Knit 24, turn
Purl 25, turn
Knit 26, turn
Purl 27, turn
Knit 28, turn
Purl one row even
Knit 6 rows even in Stockinette Stitch
Row 1: *Knit 1, Knit 2 together, repeat from *, last stitch knit 1.
Row 2: *Purl 1, Purl 2 together, repeat from * , last stitch purl 1.
Row 3: Knit 2 together to end of row, with last stitch knit 1.
Row 4: Purl 2 together to end of row, with last stitch purl 1.
Cut yarn about 12 inches and draw through remaining stitches and fasten off.
Sew seam with 12 inches of yarn.
a personal note would be nice too!
From Lt. Dave:
Here's a list of things that soldiers will like to get in the stockings. In addition to the list that Sue (my mom) put up, these are some things that I liked getting while in Iraq:
Decks of cards
Kool-aid® (sugar added)
Iced tea mix
Anything that will last for a while because I'm sure that they will be getting more than one care package.