Mary Gray’s idea to supply her son and fellow servicemembers with a bandana containing the scripture of Psalm 91 started a mission that has been active and ongoing since 2006.

Called Operation Bandanas, Gray has sent more than 232,000 bandanas to servicemembers overseas.

It’s easy to send tangible objects that give physical support — snacks and toiletries — but harder to send those items that give spiritual support, Gray said.

“The military needs a lot of encouragement and a lot of support,” she said. “I believe that many people give them that support through different means. But, I wanted to do something that would specifically give them spiritual support.”

Psalm 91, which reads, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” provides a measure of the spiritual support that deployed servicemembers need.

“It’s a token of love and appreciation to let them know we remember them, but at the same time, send them God’s words of encouragement, of strength, and of protection,” said Gray.

Though the mission began at Fort Bragg with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division receiving the first shipment of bandanas, it has become an effort made possible, not only because of donations from across the state of North Carolina, but also because of donations from across the nation, explained Gray.

Each bandana costs $3, but shipping and paper for accompanying letters cost extra. Once shipped, the bandanas are usually distributed by chaplains downrange.

Nov. 2 marked the seven-year anniversary of Operation Bandanas, a mission that seems to be appreciated by servicemembers.

Testimonials from those who have received bandanas are posted on the organization’s website:

“Just so you know, this bandana will be carried with me on daily missions all over the northern nine provinces of Afghanistan. I will take daily comfort in reading this passage and knowing that God is with me. This bandana will be added to the American flag and the two stars that were cut from an unserviceable American flag that travel with me everywhere, and upon my return will be added to my cherished possessions of deployment memorabilia.” — Master Sgt. Jason E. Podzemny

‘The Soldiers going out on convoys truly appreciate the gift and I know that it brings comfort to them. I personally use one on my altar so that I can give thanks for your work and sacrifice. Thank you for taking care of our Soldiers and our coalition forces.

Taking care of the military at this time in history has been amazing, said Gray.

“What a privilege it has been to serve them.”

Operation Bandanas is a non-profit organization that accepts tax-deductible donations. For more information, call Mary Gray at 578-8840, email her at or visit