From battlefield to teddy bear, turning uniforms into treasured keepsakes

Freeman family
Freeman family

RICHMOND HILL, GA (CNN) — This Memorial Day weekend, Americans across the country are finding ways to honor those who served, including one very special mother.

When Lisa Freeman’s son was killed in combat in Afghanistan, she says she wouldn’t allow herself to go to a dark place.

Instead, she started sewing.

For Freeman, it’s a time to sit still, focus, and help others. The healing begins with her hands.

“Just pray over the uniform while I am going,” Freeman said.

She sits and sews in a tiny upstairs room in a grand house on the Georgia coast.

“Makes me stop and think about Matthew. He was only over there 9 days when he was killed,” Freeman said.

“Mom, dad, I can never repay you for all you have done for me. You made me into the man I am today. I hope that I have made you proud that has always been my goal. I love you both so much,” Freeman reads from Matthew’s last journal entry dated 8/2/2009.

Seaming together the memory of her son.

Marine Captain Matthew Freeman was killed in combat while serving in Afghanistan.

Do you still talk to him?

“All the time,” Freeman replies.

What would Matthew be saying to you right now as you’re sewing?

“He’s loving that something good is happening out of something so tragic,” Freeman said.

What are you thinking about?

“I can tell you as I’m doing this I am thinking about the young woman who brought me these. This was her brother Shannon Chihuhua’s pants. And when she first came to me she just wanted to talk about her brother and how much she missed him. And so for her this is just one more thing that she can say, ‘that’s your Uncle Shannon’s.’ That’s my Shannon bear. Shannon Chihuhua. Thank you for your service,” Freeman said.

Bears lovingly made from the combat uniforms of the fallen.

“Can you stick your hand in there?” Freeman asks.

The Shannon bear might be for Specialist Shannon Chihuhua’s nephews, but it’s his sister Jessica Frausto who’s clutching them.

“When my kids are grown, and older, even for me. It’s something that we’ll always have. And we’ll always have his memories,” Frausto said.

Remembering her brother, killed in Afghanistan.

“It gets hard. We just miss them, don’t we?” Freeman said.

“Yeah,” Frausto said.

“That’s a C-130 which is what Matthew flew,” Freeman said. “Maybe he’s just letting us know he’s happy too.”

“Yep it’s him,” Frausto said.

A plane overhead… A bear in the hand… Gold star signs.

Cpt. Matthew Freeman was a third generation naval aviator. He was killed in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2009. He was 29. Cpt. Freeman is survived by his wife, parents, and two sisters.

Spc. Shannon Chihuahua was an Army medic. He was killed in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2010. He was 25. Spc. Chihuahua is survived by his wife two daughters, two sisters and two brothers

To learn more about the Matthew Freeman Project visit

“Mom, Dad, I can never repay you for all you have done for me. You made me into the man I am today. I hope that I have made you proud. That has always been my goal. I love you both so much. Tell the girls that I love them and couldn’t be a prouder older brother. I have always tried to be an honorable man and I truly believe in what we are doing here. I am doing this for my family; so that they need not fear, My country, so that it can be a beacon of light for the entire world; the men around me, because no one could ask for a more august company than the men of the US Armed Forces and finally I do this for myself so that I might know the measure of myself and in the end not be found wanting. I believe that it is my duty to fight and having done all that I can to simply stand against this and all the evil works upon this Earth.” – Cpt. Matthew Freeman

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