'Cool collar' helps troops in Iraq

With sweltering temperatures reaching 118 degrees in Baghdad, Iraq, it's no wonder Gail Hastert founded her project.

The Gardnerville resident turned to the Internet to find ways to help troops overseas cool off in the blistering heat.

"I am making sets of what are called a cool collar and a cool head," Hastert said.

The collars and heads are made with fabric and placed around soldiers' necks and under their helmets to give off a cooling sensation and to help absorb body heat.

"It feels very cool and refreshing," Hastert said.

The secret to the collars and cool heads is the crystal sewed inside them.

"It's the same thing used in diapers," Hastert said. "It's nontoxic."

As a member of St. Gall Catholic Church, Hastert gets some financial help from the Knights of Columbus.

"(They) offered to help offset some of the expenses, so I've got a little bit of backing," she said.

She sews the coolers herself and sends them in dozens to soldiers overseas, along with dried fruit, cereal and snacks.

Hastert began sewing the collars last year when a friend of her daughter's was sent to Afghanistan in the Navy.

"It just brings up the need when you can personalize it like that," she said. "I did it last year, but on a much smaller scale. She went back this year, so I just kind of picked it up again. I have sent 211Ú2 dozen sets."

Hastert discovered the need for such devices from the Web site AnySoldier.com.

She found instructions to make them on a site called The Ships Project.

"I have my great aunt's sewing machine made in 1938," she said.

"We just sit there and stitch. I'm no custom sewer ... but I can whip these out pretty well."

The creations are able to cool themselves by evaporation, Hastert said.

"It really is a great concept," she said. "I hope to bring a little relief."

Hastert isn't alone in this project. Her daughter and a friend in Iowa also send out sets of the cool collars.

She was even responsible for introducing the cool collar concept to her Iowa friend, who'd never heard of such a thing in the Midwest.

"We're all doing it very independently," she said.

Hastert plans to continue sending the coolers until temperatures reach a more bearable climate.

"This is a good project for me," Hastert said. "It fits my lifestyle. And it suits me.

"I'm not a supporter of any war, but I will support our troops as long as they're gone."

As for her advice to others who are interested in helping the troops, she said AnySoldier.com is a good place to start.

"In some ways it's a very encouraging site," she said.

"They don't sound horribly miserable, and that's encouraging."


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