'Matthew Bears' help kids, families remember those lost serving our country

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

RICHMOND HILL, Ga. -- 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 her, it's a time to sit still, focus, and help others.

For Freeman, the healing begins with her hands. She sits and sews in a tiny upstairs room in a grand house on the Georgia coast, seaming together the memory of her son.

"Makes me stop and think about Matthew. He was only over there nine days when he was killed," she said.

Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman was killed in combat while serving in Afghanistan. It was his death that started Freeman on this journey to help provide solace to other grieving families.

"I can tell you as I'm doing this I am thinking about the young woman who brought me these," Freeman explained, sorting through material from a uniform. "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 lovingly makes "Matthew Bears" from uniforms of the fallen. It's the newest part of the Matthew Freeman Project.

Freeman launched the Matthew Bears Mission to reach out to the children and nieces and nephews of military killed while deployed or in the performance of their duties.

The Shannon bear might be for Specialist Shannon Chihuhua's nephews, but it's his sister Jessica who's clutching them. "When my kids are grown, and older, even for me, it's something that we'll always have," she said. "And we'll always have his memories."



Freeman was a third generation Naval Aviator. He was killed in Kapisa province, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2009. He was 29. 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 freemanproject.org.