Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
This is an interview with Cozette Haggerty, founder of the PS4FS organization, who has spent the last two years selflessly arranging for shawls to be given to people whose family member gave his or her life for our country.
1. What is PS4FS?
Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldiers (PS4FS) began October 2007. To date (October 2009), we are a collection of 239 individuals and groups located throughout the country. Our mission is to deliver hand-made loving prayer shawls to the families of our fallen military. To that end, we have been enormously successful, having given 3,078 prayer shawls to our military families.
2. What was the most difficult part of getting this program started? How did you overcome this difficulty?
The major obstacle was gaining access to the list of our military fallen. It took many months of searching, writing, calling with dead ends and no-results. Finally, former Senator Ted Kennedy responded telling me his office had contacted the Army’s mortuary office about my request. He went on to say if I did not hear back from them within a few weeks, to let him know and he would ensure that the connection would be made. It was most appreciated that Senator Kennedy not only understood my request correctly (other political officials did not), he went the extra mile to make the contact for me, and then went on to tell me to get back to him if no progress was made! I was delighted to say the least!
Several weeks later, I received information from the Army’s Mortuary Office asking for an explanation of our program. I filled out the forms, ensuring that our mission was not to try to change others’ religion. They did a background check, and asked for signed forms ensuring I would maintain the families’ confidentiality. My information was referred to a set of lawyers to determine our veracity. Months went by before I finally received an email from the Army’s Mortuary Office with the attached monthly casualty totals.
This was my moment of truth – looking over a sea of names of young men and women, a list that went on seemingly forever, including their relatives' contact information. It was a difficult moment of realization – the names were no longer faceless numbers. It was quite painful to come to grips with the tragic loss these family members had to be experiencing!
The biggest disappointment came when I learned the Army’s list contained only Army fallen. Apparently each military branch keeps their own set of statistics. It was difficult enough to obtain this one list! How to include the Marines, the Navy, and all other forces? Many of the PS4FS members worked tirelessly finding those names, which were added to our database.
PS4FS has gone through three major changes.
The initial program tackled the daunting task of writing to families. This was the major program – it moved along at a fast pace, one name at a time. Its success is measured in the time period, 14 months, before we reached stage two: the “maintenance” stage, where we had nearly completed the list, and began “maintaining” the incoming monthly casualties.
Just as we had exhausted stage two, I received an email from Chaplain David Sorensen, Dover Air Base’s Army Liaison Family Support Chaplain. He and his team assist the “dignified transfer of their loved ones whose remains are being returned almost daily from Iraq and Afghanistan.” Chaplain Sorensen learned about us through a visiting mother who knew about PS4FS. This third stage of our ministry became the Dover Program. It was a perfect match at a just the right time! Now our remaining families would receive our loving gifts at a much needed time, when they would be most meaningful. The program began in October 7th. In the first four days, 22 prayer shawls have been delivered to Dover Air Base.
3. What other changes or goals do you have for PS4FS?
It’s rather ironic, but though we’ve had such success, nothing would be more rewarding than to have the need for our services wan and go away.
4. Do you have a favorite success story about PS4FS?
There are many success stories. Please visit our website and read many of the correspondence and thank you notes from our military families. The photos speak for themselves!
5. Anything else you’d like to share with this international readership of veterans?
As we may not be able to solve the world’s problems, this small measure of our work has a lasting, loving and healing value. It is good to know our prayer shawls comfort the families both physically and spiritually.
When PS4FS began, it was just a dream. I knew it could be done, but had no idea of the huge following we would receive. There are Americans all over this country who care about our fallen military families, but we don’t always know what to say or do for them. This tangible gift, made with love and prayers, gives them hope when they may have reached a hopeless time in their lives. Dare to dream! One person can make a difference. PS4FS, as a group, has made that difference, one stitch at a time!