Group's Monkeys Minister to Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2007 - In Chelsea, Ala., offering servicemembers and their families encouragement is just plain monkey business.

Since February 2005, Sock Monkey Ministries, Inc. has been letting servicemembers know they're not forgotten with handmade sock monkeys. Each monkey wears a yellow ribbon and carries a message letting recipients know someone back home is thinking of them.

"It's our responsibility as an American people to care and nurture our soldiers as they protect our freedom," Beth VanSickle, founder of Sock Monkey Ministries, said. "We choose to do this by making a handmade treasure with special meaning attached to it."

A card that accompanies the monkey explains its purpose and encourages servicemembers to pass it on to a child who could use a lift. To date, 1,500 volunteers have made 5,200 sock monkeys. The morale-boosting primates have been sent to civilians and servicemembers alike around the world.

In a tribute to the families of the fallen, Sock Monkey Ministries also makes what it calls the "Fallen Hero" sock monkey. This monkey has a U.S. flag embroidered on its chest and carries a special note for its recipient. Simply stated, it offers appreciation and gratitude for the family's sacrifice, VanSickle said.

In addition to providing hope and encouragement to the troops, VanSickle said, her organization accomplishes another goal.

"Our organization provides a means by which many volunteers ... can come together for a single purpose," she said. "We are instilling patriotism in our communities and informing the American people that we still have many lives that are being affected by the global war on terrorism."

VanSickle said she sees evidence the group's efforts are appreciated. She said she receives many e-mails from soldiers and their families sharing the importance of our organization's efforts to bring laughter, encouragement and strength through a simple stuffed toy.

Sock Monkey Ministries recently became a home-front partner in the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Though Sock Monkey Ministries is a new member of America Supports You, it has already recognized the benefits of that membership, VanSickle said.

"Our organization has worked with another America Supports You group, Operation Homefront," she said. "We sent over 100 sock monkeys to their San Antonio affiliate. They handed these monkeys out to a military hospital as an opportunity to bring cheer as the patients recover from injuries."

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