Shirts sold to recognize soldiers
John Tierney | Wednesday, October 4, 2006
War is a naturally cold affair, but Notre Dame senior Stephen Patton and the TakePride organization are working to support American soldiers in a more personal way.
Since its launch last fall, Patton has been a partner in TakePride, a national organization founded by Patrick Gray and former Marine John Betts that sells T-shirts in recognition of Americans serving in the war.
Unlike many organizations that raise awareness of war, TakePride does not view its activities as political statements.
“Showing support and concern for the well-being of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a statement about politics but simply an expression of human decency,” the organization’s mission statement reads.
Patton said TakePride’s cause is not precisely to “support our troops.”
“The word ‘support’ is ambiguous and ‘troops’ is dehumanizing,” Patton said. “We’re hoping to encourage people to recognize what other Americans are going through and do something to demonstrate concern for those at war.”
As part of TakePride’s effort to humanize the experiences of the soldiers at war, the organization used the stories of nine members of the armed forces currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan as inspiration for its shirts.
For example, one shirt features a diary entry of soldier Robynn Murray that sheds light on her activities on Feb. 2. Another shirt featuring the image of a soldier reaching out to a child is based on soldier Michael Kielty’s photographs of himself with Iraqi children. A third shirt is drawn from the experiences of Marine pilot Mike Bridges at the Battle for Fallujah, and features the image of a pilot and three fighter planes.
Patton emphasized that, while portraying images of war, none of the TakePride shirts are focused on making a political statement.
“I understand the opposing positions on the war, but I just feel that it’s more about supporting Americans going through a difficult time than about politics,” he said.
Patton said he does not believe that wearing a T-shirt will change the world, but he hopes his work will start a conversation.
“I’m not saying that wearing a symbol of support is the perfect answer for getting engaged in an issue, but we’re trying to do something,” he said. “We’re hoping that our symbol at least encourages people to think about the issue differently and contemplate being more active in recognizing and showing concern for Americans at war.”
Each of TakePride’s 10 shirt designs is available for $20-22 in both men’s and women’s sizes online at www.takepride.com. TakePride donates 20 percent of the profits from the sale of the shirts to various armed forces-related charities, such as the USO and Disabled American Veterans.
The essence of the organization is in starting conversations and changing perspectives, Patton said, making its mission not political, but humanitarian.
“We have a moral obligation to let the soldiers know that we’re concerned for them, that their lives matter to us,” Patton said.