From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer / Wed Dec 6
STRATFORD, N.J. – In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons
systems, sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which
is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly
String to Iraq.
American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as
Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.
Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can
shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the
ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a
problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.
Now, 1,000 cans of the neon-colored plastic goop are packed into
Shriver’s one-car garage in this town outside Philadelphia, ready to be
shipped to the Middle East thanks to two churches and a pilot who heard
about the drive.
“If I turn on the TV and see a soldier with a can of this on his vest,
that would make this all worth it,” said Shriver, 57, an office
The maker of the Silly String brand, Just for Kicks Inc. of Watertown,
N.Y., has contacted the Shrivers about donating some. Other
manufacturers make the stuff, too, and call their products “party
string” or “crazy string.”
“Everyone in the entire corporation is very pleased that we can be
involved in something like this,” said Rob Oram, Just for Kicks product
marketing manager. He called the troops’ use of Silly String
The military is reluctant to talk about the use of Silly String, saying
that discussing specific tactics will tip off insurgents.
But Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad,
said Army soldiers and Marines are not forbidden to come up with new
ways to do their jobs, especially in Iraq’s ever-evolving battlefield.
And he said commanders are given money to buy nonstandard supplies as
In other cases of battlefield improvisation in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have
bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has come to be known as
“Hillybilly Armor.” Medics use tampons to plug bullet holes in the
wounded until they can be patched up.
Also, soldiers put condoms and rubber bands around their rifle muzzles
to keep out sand. And troops have welded old bulletproof windshields to
the tops of Humvees to give gunners extra protection. They have dubbed
it “Pope’s glass” – a reference to the barriers that protect the
In an October call to his mother, Army Spc. Todd Shriver explained how
his unit in the insurgent hotbed of Ramadi learned from Marines to use
Silly String on patrol to detect boobytraps.
After sending some cans to her 28-year-old son, Shriver enlisted the
help of two priests and posted notices in her church and its
newsletter. From there, the effort took off, with money and Silly
String flowing in. Parishioners have been dropping cans into donation
“There’s so much that they can’t do, and they’re frustrated, but this
is something they can do,” said the Rev. Joseph Capella of St. Luke’s
Church in Stratford.
The Shrivers said they would not mind seeing the string as
standard-issue equipment, but they don’t blame the military for not
“I don’t think that they can think of everything,” said Ronald Shriver,
59, a retired salesman. “They’re taught to improvise, and this is
something that they’ve thought of.”
Marcelle Shriver said that since the string comes in an aerosol can, it
is considered a hazardous material, meaning the Postal Service will not
ship it by air. But a private pilot who heard about her campaign has
agreed to fly the cans to Kuwait – most likely in January – where
they will then be taken to Iraq.
Shriver said she will continue her campaign as long as her son is
overseas and she has Silly String to send.
“I know that he’s going come through this. I hope they all do,” she