Monday, November 25, 2013

Operation: Mistletoe! Feel the love!

What do you get when you cross the perfect Christmas gift with a symbol that represents the spirit of our wounded, ill and injured Warriors + Families?

A mistletoe ornament, of course!

SOWW's Limited Edition "Mistletoe Forest Ornaments" will be available at Old Luckett's Store Antiques in Leesburg, VA on Black Friday for donations of $25 or more. Only 100 ornaments are available, so get there early and please give generously.

The ornaments were hand crafted using mistletoe from the treetops of Bull Run Warrior Retreat to bring awareness to the community at large about the "home away from home" we are renovating for our recovering Warriors + Their Families.

Clusters of mistletoe hanging in the trees at Bull Run Warrior Retreat this past winter.

The "Mistletoe Forest Ornaments" feature red or gold hand-dyed silk ribbons and include the mistletoe lore in the packaging.  They are a beautiful, festive touch and make for a very traditional (or  very affectionate) Christmas gift.

Here are some interesting mistletoe facts from the label that will be fun to share with your family + friends throughout the holidays! 

It is easy to see why we thought mistletoe was symbolic of our wounded, ill and injured Warriors + Families.  Our Willing Warrior Families are the epitome of American Resilience.  Our vision is to provide a peaceful "home away from home" for them as they heal and mend from the seen and unseen wounds of war. Since mistletoe represents healing, peace + resilience, we were thrilled to find that it grew in the treetops above the house at Bull Run Warrior Retreat.  Surely, it was a sign!

Now let me share just a little more mistletoe madness. Below I have chronicled just what was involved in harvesting the mistletoe and making these classic ornaments!

We started early - before the autumn leaves had fallen. I had noticed the mistletoe in the trees last winter when it was easy to spot the round, green balls flourishing high on the bare branches. But trying to see it while the leaves were still up required a telescopic lens. Once I was sure there was enough to harvest, I snagged my tree-climbing husband to help out.

Mistletoe cluster high up in the branches at Bull Run Warrior Retreat.

Up my husband goes with a bag to pluck the dangerously high clusters off the branches.

Bull Run Warrior Retreat has such a glorious front yard!  It made for a majestic backdrop for harvesting mistletoe !

Some high winds had blown one branch down low and the mistletoe was hanging within reach.  Such a symbolic picture - a cluster of mistletoe hanging right above the retreat home.

Oops!  I mean, we had to test it, right?

After about an hour of Dan swinging from tree branches, we had collected a big basket of mistletoe to take back to my garden shed.

As we were leaving, some wild turkeys on the property began to gobble. We walked over to watch them strutting through some barberry bushes on the property!  Oooohhh!  Barberry!  So the pretty red berries were harvested as well to add to the ornaments.
Berried mistletoe curing in my garden shed.
Bull Run Warrior Retreat Barberries + Mistletoe

The mistletoe had to dry out a bit before the real work began of wiring it to hang suspended in glass ornaments.  Otherwise, the too-fresh leaves released some type of gas that clouded the clear ornament and turned it into a pearly gray color that was nearly opaque.

And so began long hours of sitting in my mistletoe'd garden shed with a space heater at my feet while I constructed the ornaments.  With the twinkling lights above and the soundtrack from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" playing as I worked, I felt positively like a Christmas Elf!  When my feet or fingers got really cold, or I started feeling stiff from hunching over the little glass orbs, I would just think about our Warriors and their American resilience . . . 

It warmed me up every time!

So Come to Old Luckett's Store Antiques on Black Friday and get your very own Mistletoe Forest Ornament!

Just Hang Them + Pucker Up!
For directions to Luckett's 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Remembering + Honoring Our Veterans All Weekend Long!

Veterans Day.
      Sometimes we forget the true meaning of this national holiday.  But I assure you, veterans do not.  So let's take a moment to remember how this day came to be set aside to honor America's greatest national treasures.
     In 1918, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, World War I formally ended when the Armistice with Germany took effect. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day ~ a day to remember those who had given their lives in the "war to end all wars" and the victory + peace that was obtained by their sacrifice.
     After World War II, most countries changed the holiday's name to include veterans of subsequent wars. While many European nations utilized the name Remembrance Day, in America it became All Veterans Day, later shortened to just Veterans Day to honor all military veterans.  
     Veterans Day is unique because while Remembrance Day is dedicated to the fallen veterans, our national holiday honors both the living, the fallen and those who have passed from causes other than war.
     It is a day to honor, to thank and to celebrate our nation's Willing Warriors from every generation.

* The iconic photo taken of Joseph Ambrose, WWI Veteran, at the Viet Nam Memorial Dedication parade in 1982.  
The 86 year old is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son who was killed in Korea.
The picture epitomizes who we honor.  And why.

     Serve Our Willing Warriors remembered, honored and celebrated our Willing Warriors + Their Families all weekend long with community partners and events.  Here are scenes from the weekend.

     On Saturday, November 9, we had SOWW teams spreading throughout three local communities, Warrenton, Manassas + Delaplane, to attend and host events to honor our veterans.

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Running for Combat-Wounded Warriors in Warrenton, VA

      Holy Trinity Church of Gainesville, VA, graciously sponsored a  Benefit 5K/10K Run Run in honor of our country's combat-wounded warriors.  The event was located at The Inn at Vint Hill with all proceeds benefiting our local wounded warriors through the outreach work of Serve Our Willing Warriors.

     The temperature stood at a frigid 28 degrees as many people began to arrive at 7:30 - 8:00am. Heavy coats, hats, gloves and earmuffs were the "standard issue" attire for the chilly November morning. With tingling ears and red noses, more than 200 runners fell into line to check-in and collect their numbered race bibs and timing chips. The runners + joggers + walkers ranged in age from about 4 years old to more than 80 years young. In some cases, complete families actively participated, including babes in strollers and dogs in tow!  Now that is 'community' at its patriotic best!

Fortunately, the day warmed up just as the race began. The sun was shinning brightly and spirits were running high. 

     Smiles, cheers, and refreshing bottles of water greeted everyone at the finish line. SOWW’s founder and president, Shirley Dominick, just so happened to win an award in the women’s category for the 5K competition. Congratulations to Shirley, a veteran + a true leader in every way!

As the runners streamed in, the younger participants were greeted and presented with medals of merit for completing the run.  

The close-knit SOWW Team . . . (or maybe they are just cold!)  Left to right:  Shirley Dominick, Taania Hendrix, Debbie Shifflette, Tom Roselius (in back),  Chip Chase + Jackie Glenn
The day was an overwhelming success - thanks to the leadership of Wendy Cox, who did a superb job of organizing the event.  All of us at SOWW give Wendy a big “Shout Out”.  You would never have guessed this was the very first 5K / 10K event she ever organized.  We really want to thank everyone at Holy Trinity as well as Reverend Thomas P. Vander Woude. We are very grateful they chose our organization's work as a great cause to support. We hope to partner with Holy Trinity again in the future to support our country’s very special military families.

+ + +
Marching for Our Veterans in Manassas
Joanne Hilliard & Diane Naso representing Serve Our Willing Warriors in The Fifth Annual Greater Manassas Veterans Day Parade.

Diane manning the SOWW table to get the word out about SOWW + Bull Run Warrior Retreat!

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Toasting Our Veterans in Delaplane, VA

     The final SOWW fundraising event of the year was held later in the evening at the lovely Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, VA.  SOWW hosted a registered guest “after hours” event headlining the live band Envee.   

     The evening was spent mingling with friends, tasting wine and dancing to the classic rock tunes that Envee is known for.  Proceeds from the event will go toward the renovation of the Bull Run Warrior Retreat which is the heart + soul (mission + vision) of Serve Our Willing Warriors. 

     The highlight of the night was a well-appointed silent auction that included multiple one-week vacations, jewelry, fine art and a host of Wizards court-side seats auctioned in the “live” auction. Overall the evening was a great success and a good time was had by all.  

 Smiles were in abundance as folks toasted our great country, its freedoms, and the awesome men + women in our military that have kept this nation strong and secure.

Some extra-special guests ~ A couple of Manassas Therapy Dogs + Friends

Stay tuned oenophiles!  Planning is already in place for 2014!

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Monday ~ November 11, 2013 

Welcoming Veterans + Visitors to Bull Run Warrior Retreat in Haymarket, VA

     After a whirlwind weekend of events + a couple of church presentations, members of SOWW spent a peaceful autumn day welcoming visitors to an Open House at Bull Run Warrior Retreat.  Guests were given tours of the property and had the chance to ask questions or sign up as future volunteers or partners.

     People are always amazed at the beauty and tranquility of the property. The vision of a "home away from home" for our Warriors + Families is pretty easy to convey when you stand looking out over the pastures with the beautiful mountain foothills rising up in the distance.  The retreat has a special spirit and people sense it as soon as they pull up into the driveway.


     At the end of the day, people left with the desire to be a part of the vision of Bull Run Warrior Retreat.  We are excited that the community of supporters is growing.  When we have our first Warrior Family stay at this home, we want them to know that it wasn't provided by just a "few", but that it was the tangible thanks that came from "many".  

     At Bull Run Warrior Retreat every day will be Veterans Day!

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* Photo of Veteran Joseph Ambrose, courtesy of US Census Bureau.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Girls Scouts + Boy Scouts Volunteer at Bull Run Warrior Retreat

It was so(ww) exciting to see a long line of cars at Bull Run Warrior Retreat on October 26th for the autumn outdoor / indoor volunteer cleanup.  Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts + their families came out to "roll up their sleeves" and clean out the old stable building and do some major yard work. Some of them got their work finished so fast that we didn't even manage to snap their picture before they had moved on to the next task!

The weather cooperated beautifully with cool breezes, warm sun and festive fall colors all around.  In fact, sometimes it was hard to make out the volunteers as they worked in the midst of the dense autumn foliage cutting down branches and cleaning out dead branches and undergrowth.  Talk about camouflage!

The Boy Scout Troop 91, assisted by some moms + dads + siblings, cleared out an old wire fence and loads of unsightly underbrush that ran along the entire length of the whole front yard.

As I stood taking photos of all the hard work, one mother of two Marines and a Soldier told me how much it meant to her and her two younger sons to "be doing something tangible" to support our recovering Warriors. Others began to chime in with similar sentiments.  We hear this all the time.  

There is a huge desire in our citizens to "give back" to our Veterans and their families and it feels especially good to actually be 'hands on' in a local endeavor.  We are thrilled that the Bull Run Warrior Retreat offers local volunteer participation and the chance to both witness and share the dream of a "Home Away From Home" for our Warriors + Families. It is exciting to see the community begin to come together and take part in the stewardship of this wonderful retreat property. We find it to be particularly heartwarming to see the young people be so deeply involved and invested in this project.

After a lot of hard work, the underbrush, dead branches and old wire fence were stacked and bagged and ready for disposal.
Boy Scout Troop 91 is super-thorough in their work!

What a difference these young men made in just a day!
Look at those unfettered views (below) from the front yard after the cleanup!  Beautiful!  Thank you gentlemen! Well done!

Meanwhile, our Girl Scouts were hard at work clearing out the remains of an old garden.

( . . . and occasionally taking some well-deserved breaks on the play set! )

The girls were delighted to harvest a whole bag of potatoes, onions, garlic and other goodies.

Watching the girls hard at work made me think of the women who cultivated the wartime Victory Gardens in times past . . .

And here's our little "Land Army" . . .

Proudly posing in the Bull Run Warrior Retreat garden.
Our Awesome Girl Scouts 
Junior Troop #3592 + Cadette Troop 1586 
(+ some very helpful siblings!) 

To all our hard working Bull Run Warrior Retreat Volunteers,
~ our Boy Scouts, our Girl Scouts + their wonderful families ~
Thank You SO(WW) Much!