It’s a small token—a homemade hat that rests on each seat aboard the chartered flights that carry troops from the Portsmouth (N.H.) International Airport at Pease to Iraq or Afghanistan.
JoAnne Schottler, 65, of Stratham, N.H., launched the hats program in November 2008. She’s distributed 5,000 hand-knit or crocheted hats to be worn under helmets, and she has another 4,000 in storage. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this program would fly like this,” she says.
The troops also find an embroidered star from a retired U.S. flag on their plane seats following a reception hosted by the Pease Greeters. The group of volunteers gather from four states, day or night, to honor inbound and outbound soldiers.
Gail Curran, 55, of Sandown, N.H., adds a special message to the hats she makes. “I write that there’s a prayer for them in every stitch,” she says.