“Knit Your Bit” (or Crochet) for Today’s Veterans

I was in grade school during the first Gulf War. We prayed the Rosary for peace and for the deployed family members of students.

I also remember that when war was imminent, a priest at my Catholic parish announced he was becoming a Navy chaplain. I don’t remember if he already had a past in the Navy; it seems likely he did. But in 1990 he was not a young man.

He enlisted as a chaplain because our country was going to war, and he wanted to serve the spiritual needs of the men and women who were going to fight it. I remember feeling a kind of awe that Father Ryan knew instinctively what he ought to do at that moment in time–and that he so straightforwardly did it. His farewell was a lesson in selflessness and in doing what was right without fanfare, fuss, or delay.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans hosts the “Knit Your Bit” project to honor our nation’s veterans. It was inspired by the famous wartime campaigns encouraging American women to knit items of clothing for servicemen overseas. The project gives Americans today a way to thank and support veterans through handmade gifts expressing patriotism and gratitude.

Life Magazine cover: “Learn to Knit” – November 24, 1941 (The National World War II Museum, New Orleans)

The website of the National World War II Museum explains:

Since its launch in 2006, Knit Your Bit has reached more than 10,000 knitters and crocheters in all 50 states. Through their efforts, the Museum has distributed more than 50,000 scarves to veterans’ centers, hospitals, and service organizations across the country.

The site provides scarf patterns and full instructions for both knit and crochet. The suggested patterns vary in complexity, but the simplest of them can be followed by a first-time knitter or crocheter. That makes Knit Your Bit a great service project for children or for anyone who is just starting out.

My grandfather flew a P-38 “Lightning” in the Air Force in World War II. Most of his generation had a close connection with military service, either through their own war experiences or those of close relatives. But today, only 1% of Americans serve in the Armed Forces, and less than 8% of the American population has ever been in the military. Veterans and military families can feel like an invisible minority.

The Knit Your Bit project tells our veterans that their service and sacrifices are remembered and appreciated–whether their service was 70 years ago or just seven months. There’s no expiration date on the words “thank you.”

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