‘Two Mothers’ making masks for vets

Sitting with a few of the Purple Heart masks, created by Two Mothers of Two Purple Heart Sons, which are available at the VFW Post 2689 for Purple Heart recipients are (from left) Wade Perkins, Karen Wehr, Gloria Holzinger, Larry Shaw and Chuck Kuschel.
Sitting with a few of the Purple Heart masks, created by Two Mothers of Two Purple Heart Sons, which are available at the VFW Post 2689 for Purple Heart recipients are (from left) Wade Perkins, Karen Wehr, Gloria Holzinger, Larry Shaw and Chuck Kuschel. Photo by Katelynn Farley.

Two local women are giving back to veterans in their community, using their sewing and creativity skills to do so.

Karen Wehr, of Warren, and Gloria Holzinger, of Huntington, have a special connection, through their sons who have received the Purple Heart award.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, both Wehr and Holzinger were involved with making facemasks for the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency.

Shortly after their first facemask project, Wehr and Holzinger started discussing other needs that could be met in their own community that had been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One idea was to create masks for veterans, especially those who were older and in nursing homes. Finally, the pair settled on creating masks for Purple Heart recipients. This decision was made in part because both women have sons who have received the Purple Heart.

“We had already done this one project, and I thought with everything going on, it would be good for a lot of our older veterans who are in the nursing home,” Holzinger said. “And we thought that this would just be a really wonderful thing that we could do for them with Veteran’s Day around the corner.”

Before starting out their Purple Heart mask project, the pair approached the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2689 about their thoughts on the project and about sponsoring them, in order to cover the cost of the materials that would be needed for making the masks.

“They paid for everything,” Holzinger said. “They were all definitely for it.”

The masks feature adjustable ear loops, purple cloth and a Purple Heart patch on the outside, as well as an iron-on decoration on the inside featuring Wehr and Holzinger’s logo, “Two Mothers of Two Purple Heart Sons”.

The Purple Heart patches were secured for Wehr and Holzinger with the help of Larry Shaw, the past State Commander of the VFW and past State Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The patches were purchased out of Louisiana, with the only stipulation being that they could not be used on products that were being sold.

So far, Wehr and Holzinger have made 17 Purple Heart masks, which are currently available for Purple Heart recipients at the VFW Post 2689. Wehr and Holzinger had the goal of completing the masks in time for veterans to pick them up in time to have them for Veteran’s Day on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

To receive a mask, veterans simply need to bring their Purple Heart medal, a certificate stating they have received a Purple Heart, or their DD214 form to the VFW Post 2689. There is no cost for the mask.

Veterans of the VFW Post 2689, along with Wehr, Holzinger and Mayor Richard Strick, gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to display the masks that are available for Purple Heart recipients.

Wehr and Holzinger hope to expand their mask-making project, but the ability to do so will depend on how well their current project goes over within the community.

“We’re only two little ladies,” Wehr said, “we both just want to give back.”

Wehr and Holzinger attribute much of their success with the mask-making project to the VFW Post 2689.

“They are always looking out for people in the community. All of their members in their community!” Holzinger said. The pair has also discussed further project options, such as face masks for veterans of specific wars, such as Vietnam or World War II, honoring current veterans and also honoring veterans who have passed.

Future projects will depend upon the availability of time, the ability to get materials and other factors as well.

Currently, Wehr and Holzinger know there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to their facemask project. Questions such as how long facemasks will be needed for, how many masks they will be able to make on their own, how they will be able to afford materials and how great the need will be for masks are all being considered by Wehr and Holzinger. For now, they are doing what they are able to do for their community and plan to do more, as they are able.

Holzinger hopes to alert the Purple Heart Magazine about their project, should it expand. The Purple Heart Magazine is a bi-monthly publication associated with the Military Order of the Purple Heart that benefits all veterans.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart also has a newsletter, The Purple Heartbeat, which holds monthly news from the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

For those with questions about availability of Purple Heart masks or when to pick them up, call the VFW Post 2689 at 356-9303.

The VFW Post 2689 is located at 220 W. Park Drive, Huntington.