- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2002

Most people who lived through the Vietnam War era remember the POW/MIA bracelets Americans wore as a reminder of the men and women who went to Southeast Asia and never came back.

Recalling how they felt wearing those bracelets to commemorate the prisoners of war and missing in action, seven Northern Virginia mothers decided to do something similar to help their own children cope with the September 11 tragedy.

They became Moms With a Mission.

The stay-at-home mothers with children ranging in age from 3 to 15 formed Moms With a Mission and designed a bracelet for their children to wear called the Band of Honor.

"A week or two after we were all together, we ultimately felt we needed to do something for our kids," says Diane Pohanka, one of the founders. "I immediately put myself in my children's shoes, and this was a way for me to commit to something larger and work in a positive way, in light of all the pain."

The bracelet, much like POW/MIA bracelets that were popular in the 1970s, is made of metal and has the inscription, "Honoring Heroism and Bravery 9-11-01." On one end is the Moms With a Mission logo, which looks like mountain peaks. On the other is one of eight different identifiers WTC, NYFD, NYPD, FLT 11, FLT 77, FLT 93, FLT 175 and the Pentagon each symbolizing a different site where terrorism struck. The bracelets can be worn or attached to a key chain or backpack using a small hole at one end.

The mothers believed that by developing these bracelets, their children could actively participate in honoring the national spirit and unite with other children and teens as they coped with the national tragedy.

"The whole thing originated as we were talking about how we [as mothers] were talking to our kids about the situation," says Becky Johns, another co-founder. "Diane and I both remembered our POW bracelets, and it seemed like the perfect idea to give the kids something to participate in."

After deciding what to do, the women had to figure out a way to do it. Their main goal was to unite children. Since it would cost money to produce the bracelets, the women decided that, after production costs, all the proceeds needed to go somewhere that helped children. They settled on the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund. The fund's goal is to provide education assistance to dependents of those killed or permanently injured as a result of the attacks.

"We wanted to get the money in the right hands, and we were trying to find someone to help us help the children," Rita Clarke says. "We really wanted to be able to guarantee that the money would go to children and that the organization was valid."

Mrs. Clarke was having her home redecorated on September 11. The woman who came spent much of the day sitting on her couch worried about her husband who worked at the Pentagon.

"I only know her first name was Donna, and I pleaded with her to contact me and let me know," Mrs. Clarke says. "She called and said he was fine but this day really made us unite with people we did not even know, and that's what the bracelet is about."

Linda Mahoney, vice president for strategic alliances for the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America, which administers the Families of Freedom Fund, says that when the mothers contacted her in November, she was swamped with offers of assistance from groups nationwide. Sorting through the inquiries was time consuming, and many were not prepared to make the commitment to seeing a project through.

Moms With a Mission, however, was different, she says.

"You could tell that this was a group of mothers who really had their heart in the project; they were so enthusiastic and so proud," Ms. Mahoney says. "I asked them if they had a business plan, and they said no, but two days later they came back to me and had everything done. They really had their ducks in a row."

The bracelets cost $7. The women have set up a Web site, www.moms- withamission.org, and have received orders from as far away as Florida. The women say the goal of the project is not to raise money, although that is a nice perk. Instead, they want to focus on their children and their families.

"Nothing good came out of 9/11 I don't think, but this has given us a way to help," says Helene Brock, whose two brothers are New York City firefighters. Both survived but lost many colleagues and are still attending memorial services eight months later.

"Our goal is to get all the kids in the local area wearing them," Mrs. Brock says.


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