The mother of a soldier killed in action in the War on Terror is commemorating her loss and the loss of other military families’ loved ones by stitching together teddy bears in their honor. What’s unique about these bears is that they’re made from the combat fatigues of the fallen heroes.
Lisa Freeman who resides in Georgia, lost her twenty-nine year-old son Matthew in 2009. He was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Matthew Freeman had married Theresa Hess, his longtime sweetheart, just a few months earlier. Three weeks after the wedding, he heard that there was a demand for more Marines on the ground in Operation Enduring Freedom, and decided to temporarily abandon his career as a Marine pilot in order to join them. He had only been in Afghanistan for a little more than a week when he was killed.
Matthew grew up near the Ogeechee River in Richmond Hill, Georgia. While he was still a young boy he became adept at navigating his flat-bottomed boat through the Ogeechee’s marshlands. On these journeys he often gathered wildflowers to later present to his mother, who taught at the town’s middle school. He also became a voracious reader, staying up far past his bedtime and devouring book after book under his blankets, flashlight in hand. Lisa Freeman discovered an enormous pile of used batteries underneath her son’s bed when he left for college years later.
This reading extended to the classics, including as Shakespeare’s plays. In fact, the young reader had already been through most of Shakespeare’s works by the time he reached high school. The sophomore English teacher recruited the bright freshman to lecture her own students about the Bard, much to their collective disbelief.
Matthew was also a dedicated musician and athlete who performed in his high school’s marching band and won two tennis championships. By the time he sang at his high school graduation, he had already been accepted by the United States Naval Academy.
The cadet had longed to become a pilot as long as he could remember. He got his wish when he finally became a Marine pilot, proudly displaying his navy wings just as his father and his grandfather had. When he married his longtime love Theresa, he only had a short time left to live.
Two days before he was killed, he spoke to his mother on the phone, telling her, “Mom, the kids would rather have pens and paper more than anything, even food or water.”
Since Matthew’s death, Lisa has been making teddy bears out of the uniforms of American soldiers who were killed in action, including her son’s. These bears, known as Matthew Bears, have become valuable keepsakes for the families of those who lost loved ones in the War on Terror. Families provide the fatigues and Lisa uses the material to make her commemorative wares. The resulting bears are sent back to their respective families. Asked what her son would think of the enterprise, she replied: “He’s loving that something good is happening out of something so tragic,” she has said.
Lisa finds the process of stitching these bears to be a meditative one. “It makes me stop and think about Matthew,” she says. “I pray over the uniform while I’m going. I don’t know about big, but I think I’m making a difference.”
Thomas Davis – NEWSslinger Contributor