Freedom Feet started on a sleepless night in 2008! My husband is in the Army and had been back from Iraq for a few months. I had been hearing stories about the living and working conditions. If the Soldiers were outside of their “tin cans” (sleeping quarters) they either had to be in full uniform or in their PT uniforms. Many times a workday consisted of 18 hours, and then 6 hours to clean up, talk with family (if the connections were up and running that day), write letters, unwind, and of course sleep! Then they were up and at it again the next day. That was their day if they were “inside the wire.” If they were “outside the wire” (outside of the semi-safe confines of their base) they were on duty 24 hours and would take turns cat napping, to get their required 4 nonconsecutive hours of sleep. It’s hard to hear about these situations as a wife. It’s hard to picture my husband constantly dirty, never without his weapon, rugged, tired, worn out, and away from any comforts of home.
About that time a very good friend of mine was deploying. Her unit was going to a similar area that my husband had been in. Now her job was vastly different (my husband is in the Infantry) but the conditions were not. So as hard as it was imagining my husband in that situation, it struck a different chord imagining my friend in a similar situation. Because she was a woman, with emotions, needs, and thought processes that I could relate to. It was so hard to picture her going through the same things my husband had gone through just a few months earlier.
As I said in the beginning, I was processing all of this in the middle of the night one night, and I just couldn’t sleep. Knowing the heart of Lemongrass, and knowing the heart of my good friend who was deploying, I knew there was a connection there! And I knew there was something I could do! The thought started off as making a mental note to send her a foot kit and a few other goodies in a personal care package once she was settled. Then that thought grew…”I know I have friends and family who would help share the cost of sending care packages to the women in that unit!” That’s all it took! The next day I was talking to my friend who was deploying! She LOVED the idea, stating that so often the care packages they receive are geared towards men…car magazines, shaving cream, Irish Spring soap, etc! She told me how they are supposed to blend in with the men, and not really look like girls all that much, so a girly package would give them a chance to break away from that and be girls!
I had plenty of friends and family that wanted to send packages, and as I was pulling all of this together, I realized I should probably call Heidi [Leist, Founder & CEO] and make sure that what I was doing was ok! Of course she gave me full permission to keep going, and not only gave me her blessing, but asked if her and other consultants could join with! That was it! Freedom Feet was born! Since then we have sent thousands of foot kits to deployed service members around the world! There have been many brains, much more creative than my own, who have developed Freedom Feet into what it is today, and we would be lost without those women! But most importantly, we have received hundreds of thank you cards/pictures/notes/emails from grateful service members around the world telling us how this gift allowed them to escape from the realities of war and deployment, even if just for a few moments. That right there makes every effort 100% worth it! God Bless the men and women protecting and fighting for our freedoms!
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