One Woman's Passion For Honoring Vets
The daughter of a World War II veteran, James “Bill” Howard of Chelsea, Leslie Howard-
McIntyre is a woman with a passion for honoring veterans.
Her way of doing so is by crocheting an estimated 50 full-size afghans and lap blankets each year, which she donates to the VA Hospital in White River Junction.
Welcoming visitors to the living room at her home on Stock Farm Road in Randolph, Leslie explained that she began making the blankets about 12 years ago, and showed some of her latest creations— all of them different red, white, and blue designs. Folded neatly and tied with red, white, and blue ribbons, these packages of warmth and comfort are distributed through the Volunteer Services office at the hospital.
Leslie Howard-McIntyre of Randolph makes afghans, in a variety of patterns (but all red, white, and blue), and donates them to the VA Hospital in White River Junction. (Herald / Tim Calabro)“My hands and my heart make these, but it’s not about me,” said Leslie, who taught herself to crochet when she was a little girl.
“I started after I saw a red, white, and blue lap blanket when my dad went to rehab at a nursing home,” she recalled.
Her dad, who landed on the beaches of Normandy during the second day of the D-Day landings, suffered from what was originally called “shell shock,” and is now known as PTSD. He got counseling and other services at the VA Hospital. “As a former counselor, I could relate to his PTSD reactions and behaviors,” Leslie said. “Knowing and seeing what my dad went through, I am even more determined to give to the VA. I used to take him down there and I’d sit and crochet while he was having his appointments. He’d get a big smile when he’d see his buddies who were World War II vets.
“I started giving the afghans to him to give to the Volunteer Services department there, and they wanted my name, but I told them I just wanted to help the veterans,” she added. “Eventually, I did do a card with my name on it to go with the afghans. After [my dad] passed away in 2010, I started going there and giving the afghans to Volunteer Services myself.”
McIntyre estimates that she makes a dozen or so afghans and lap blankets every three months.
“I started out doing them in memory of my dad, then later I put pictures of the afghans on Facebook and asked for people to contact me with the names of vets they’d like me to donate an afghan in memory of.
“A VA nurse once told me how much the vets there love the afghans, because many of them come from a long way away and stay a long time, and it makes them feel at home,” she said. “So, I started making more of the larger ones that are big enough for the whole bed.”
When she gives them to Volunteer Services, she attaches two cards— one with her name, and the fact that she’s the daughter of a WWII vet; and one with the name of a vet in whose honor the blanket is given.
“I want to memorialize the vets who have passed and keep the vets who are sick warm,” she explained. “It’s an honor to do this.”
McIntyre’s husband, Greg, is also a veteran, who served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, and works as a rural carrier for the U.S. Post Office in Randolph. They have three children—a daughter, Cara, who is grown and married; and two sons— Hayden, a student in the vet tech program at VTC; and Samuel, an eighth grader at RUHS.
Making the effort to say “thank you” to veterans has become a mission for McIntyre. She makes the time to stop and do that whenever she sees the opportunity. She has also taught her kids to thank veterans for their service, and noted proudly that Samuel had recently done so when some veterans visited his school.
“Vets often give up their life, limbs, and mental health for us,” she said, noting that during the many years she sat at the VA Hospital when she took her dad there, “I saw the vets change from the older WWII and Korean War vets, to the veterans of the Vietnam War, and younger ones from the conflicts in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. The least we can do is say ‘thank you.’”
Anyone who would like to contact McIntyre about putting the name of a veteran on an “in memory of” card attached to one of her afghans, is welcome to email her at email@example.com.
(This first appeared in the Herald of Randolph April 20, 2017)