Operation Helmet Liner is underway in Wood County

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Dozens of Wood County women are knitting "fabulous" gifts for our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barbara Caffrey, of Holly Lake Ranch, says that when retired military men see her knitting helmet liners for the troops, they say things like "that's fabulous" and "just fantastic." These simple handmade caps are very welcome to our deployed troops.

This began for Barbara when she and Jeanette Sterner were among the Wood County Republican Women who attended a Republican Women's workshop in San Antonio in February. Barbara and Jeanette (also an HLR resident) are vice president and president respectively of Republican Women of Wood County.

In San Antonio, they met a Republican woman from Dallas who was knitting helmet liners and handing out knitting instructions to anyone who would volunteer to help.

Jeanette Sterner, retired military herself (Colonel, USA Ret.) immediately knew how important these caps/helmet liners are to troops in the field. She introduced Barbara to Jeanee O'Neill of Dallas. Barbara, who knits, found others happy to help. She now has women in the Holly Lake Women's Service Guild and the Stitch ‘n Bee Club knitting and crocheting helmet liners. Additionally, via the Republican Women's Club, she has recruited knitters from Mineola to Lake Fork.

The knitted caps they collect throughout Wood County will go into gift boxes the Republican Women will send to specific military units in Afghanistan and Iraq this Memorial Day and again on the 4th of July.

Caffrey welcomes any volunteers who would like to join the project. Call her at 903-725-3621 and she will send you the knitting instructions. You will need acrylic worsted yarn in "earth tones" such as brown, black, tan, gray or "camo." Barbara will answer any questions you have regarding the instructions.

Why helmet liners are "fabulous": First, they cushion the metal helmets on guys with the short GI haircuts. The desert sand destroys cloth items such as socks and caps. When the government-supplied helmet liner wears out, a replacement is needed ASAP. The skullcap-like liners insulate against extremes of heat and cold. Summer temperatures in Iraq can range from 130+ degrees in the daytime to 68 degrees at night. Afghanistan is famously cold in the winter.

According to Jeanee O'Neill, "This is a grassroots project that just grew. It started when a retired general called the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson and spoke about our troops needing replacement helmet liners." An aide in Congressman Johnson's office, who is also a board member of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, passed the information along to her friend Jeanee O'Neill.

O'Neill said, "It's ongoing," and knitters should knit "as many as you can." O'Neill and her network of needle workers hand out helmet liners to all troopers leaving DFW Airport for the Middle East. She noted that all servicemen and women deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan fly out of either Atlanta or Dallas/Fort Worth. Usually soldiers from the western United Sates do not have family at DFW to see them off. So Republican Women and their friends try to be there to shake their hands, and give them a smile, a hug, and a helmet liner.

O'Neill said that a plane leaves DFW seven days a week. They try to be there at least once a month! They accumulate 250 helmet liners to take to the airport, because 250 is a plane load. She cherishes a letter she received from a serviceman in Afghanistan. He wrote about how much it meant to him on a cold Christmas Eve to have that handmade gift from home. Contact Jeanee O'Neill at 214-341-3357 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

According to Jeanette Sterner, helmets are designed "for protection, not for comfort." There is webbing inside the military helmets, either elastic or leather webbing. It provides some insulation, but it can get cold in the desert. It's not just the guys with short haircuts who appreciate a helmet liner. The women find that their hair can get tangled in the webbing.

The Republican Women of Wood County will be sending gift boxes to the 3-144th Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard, now deployed in Iraq and also to an outfit in Afghanistan.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2009 16:34