Newry military mom leads soldier bandana project
“I’m trying to make it a little easier for our boys across the pond,” said Deborah Rafford, a stay-at-home wife and mother of three sons in the military. “I want our guys to know they are not being forgotten.”
In her Newry home, surrounded by hundreds of books written by returning soldiers, clippings of newspapers and her five blue stars hanging in the window, Deborah is on a mission to ease the pain of soldiers who are away from their families.
Deborah moved to Newry last fall from Houlton when her husband, Clark, was hired as the Telstar Middle School principal.
With her, she brought her passion for supporting American soldiers.
“I believe in our soldiers. I don’t believe in Afghanistan. I don’t believe in Iraq. I don’t believe we should be there. I believe in our soldiers and I will do anything I can to help them.”
Clark served 14 and a half years in the Air Force and another eight-and-a-half years in the National Guard. The couple’s oldest son, Rob, and the middle son, Donny, are still serving in the Navy and the Army National Guard, respectively.
The youngest, Andrew, served on the USS Cole after it was repaired, and in 2005 was injured when two IED’s went off near his compound.
While living in northern Maine, Deborah became a troop greeter at Bangor International Airport, volunteered her time to a group of women sending care packages, and began writing letters to the troops. Another group in Milo decided to do something a little different and began fundraising for bandanas with Psalm 91 printed on them. Deborah knew this was something she definitely wanted to do. The ladies dubbed Psalm 91 “The Soldiers’ Prayer.”
“They love them,” said Deborah. “Our guys wear them on their wrists, around their necks, under their helmets and some of them use them as wall hangings. I’ve got pictures of groups of soldiers wearing them.”
When the group disbanded, Deborah sought out a partner to help fundraise and caught the eye of Roger Swift in Odessa, Texas. He rallied his comrades at VFW Post 4372 and together, between Texas and Maine, they raised more than $5,000 to purchase bandanas.
“It was amazing,” Deborah said. “We called it our bandana blitz. We purchased 1,000 of them and now we have about 100 left.”
Deborah would like to find a corporate sponsor for the bandanas in order to be able to purchase more.
“If any proud American out there wants to help give our soldiers a gift from home they can use and be proud of, I hope they’ll contact me,” she said.
Anyone interested can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 381-7609 or mail to Deborah Rafford, 17 Riverbank Road, Newry, ME 04261.
The Rafford family also wants to encourage local students to write to the soldiers.
They can adopt a platoon or an individual soldier, and if students include their e-mail address, they will usually reply back.
Deborah added, “Please don’t ask them how many people they’ve killed. It’s hard enough being over there and having to fight; the last thing they want is to see that in a letter.
“They like cookies and all kinds of things in their care packages. I send cookies to Rob and Donny often. I even sent Donny fresh grass clippings in a sealed baggie and fiddleheads. He was so appreciative.”