Love Offering Honors Fallen Servicewomen
It all started with an idea and a plain white envelope. The idea was simple: Raise awareness about the human cost of war, honor the fallen and support a legacy. The envelope, though plain and quite ordinary, became powerful enough to do all three.
Recently, two women from the National Association of State Women Veteran Coordinators (NASWVC) took their idea and some plain white envelopes to a Women’s History Month (WHM) program in Texas and what happened there was nothing short of extraordinary. On a March afternoon, military members, retirees, veterans, civic leaders, and community members gathered in the base chapel at Sheppard AFB for a WHM program that included a keynote address, an all-woman honor guard, and female soloist and chaplain. This service of remembrance also included an opportunity for the audience to reflect and remember the military women who died while serving in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.
Current NASWVC President Delilah Washburn and Past President Lynda Waldroop, a Navy veteran who traveled from OK for the program, facilitated the portion of the program called the Love Offering. “We based this program on a memorial breakfast we had done at the NASWVC Conference in Texas last year,” Washburn said.
Sheppard AFB attendees could select one of nearly 60 envelopes and make an anonymous donation in memory of a servicewomen who had died in Afghanistan or Iraq. Labeled with the rank, name, service, age, hometown and a brief description of how or where each service woman died, the envelopes gave war a human face. Some may have chosen servicewomen they knew, but for most these servicewomen were only names they’d read in a newspaper or heard about on the news–until they chose an envelope that day.
Washburn says that many at the program were deeply affected by learning the stories of the fallen. “It was such a moving presentation,” she says. “A young airman in technical training came to take an envelope. She spoke to me and said, ‘I’ll give you everything I have on me,’ and she put two quarters into her envelope. That’s a pretty powerful tribute.”
A total of $650.50 was collected and donated to the Women’s Memorial Foundation. Turning over the Love Offering to the Memorial means continuing the legacy of women in the military, according to Washburn, who is a retired Air Force master sergeant. “We do this to bring awareness and educate the public about the sacrifices being made every day by our military members, to honor our fallen sisters and to support the Women’s Memorial,” she says. “The Memorial belongs to all of us and it’s our job to support it. Having this program accomplishes all three things in very meaningful ways.”
Washburn plans to continue the Love Offering as often as she can. In fact, at the NASWVC conference at the end of May she plans to challenge each state coordinator to conduct Love Offering collections. But the spirit of the Love Offeringisn’t just for Women Veteran Coordinators.
If you or your group or organization would like to do an envelope donation program like the Love Offering, all you need is a list of military women and enough envelopes to go around. You can honor women casualties or you can honor women from your hometown or your state. If you need help gathering a list of servicewomen or women veterans, the Foundation staff is always on hand to help. To request a list of names to get you started or to share your story of a unique recruiting or donation drive, contact the Foundation at email@example.com.
As the Department of Defense confirms and releases casualty reports, the names and photographs of fallen servicewomen are added to the Memorial Register. Members and friends of the Women’s Memorial are welcome to sponsor these registrations or make donations in memory of or in honor of these or other military women. The Sheppard AFB Love Offering donations will be recorded in the Memorial records of each Enduring and Iraqi Freedom casualty. For information about sponsoring a registration or honoring a current member, contact the Registration Department at 703-533-1155 or 800-222-2294 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.