I was honored and awed to be a guest at Peggy Freeman's induction into the Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The DAR is about as far away as anything can be from my heritage. My grandparents emigrated from a country that no longer exists. I've seen three different spellings of my maiden name and when I once questioned my grandmother about the old country, she only said, "That's over. I don't want to talk about it."
So it was pretty awesome for me to be in a roomful of ladies who could trace their families back for dozens of generations and describe in detail all their patriotic acts. And here is what surprised me. I always thought the ancestor had to be a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War. But according to DAR member Sue Kirves, the relative only had to be a patriot, meaning anyone who aided or comforted the troops.
For example, American and British military doctrine alike held that you could not expect men to fight without regular supplies of fighting spirits, meaning the distilled variety. So among the several patriots through whom Kirves claims her membership is William Curry Sr. who furnished 16 pounds of bacon and lifted soldiers' spirits with an undetermined quantity of rum.
Though very proud of their family trees, these ladies do not just sit around and dwell on the past. They, like their ancestors, are patriots contributing to the present and future of their fellow Americans. DAR members volunteer more than 60,000 hours annually to veteran patients, award over $150,000 in scholarships and financial aid to students each year, and support various children's organizations, including the Gwinnett Children's Shelter.
One of their newest causes is Project Patriot, led on the national level by Freeman. Project Patriot ships new clothes to servicemen and women who are evacuated for medical reasons, or medivaced out of combat situations. Freeman, whose husband Jim had been medivaced from his second term in Vietnam, sees this as a perfect undertaking.
Wounded soldiers are first taken to a hospital in Landsthul, Germany, before they are returned to the United States. In most cases, they have nothing but the clothes on their backs. In keeping with international laws that prohibit the shipping of used clothing overseas, Project Patriot collects and ships new shoes and clothing for our injured troops. The items most critically needed are:
· Athletic shoes (walking or all-purpose tennis shoes) sizes 81/2-12 (especially sizes 10-12)
· Men's ankle socks
· Men's T-shirts size M, L (not undershirts)
· Men's slippers
· Women's T-shirts, all sizes
· Bras and sports bras, sizes 32-38
· Bath towels and face cloths
To donate new items for wounded troops or for more information, contact Freeman at peggyfre
@comcast.net. Even if we're not directly descended from patriots, it's never too late to make being a patriot part of our family history.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4