Silly String Coupled With American Ingenuity Saves Troops Lives


Troops find safety in silly string
by Erik German

Left, Marcelle Shriver sprays Silly String from a can as she stands next to some of the more than 1,000 cans stored in the garage of her Stratford, N.J., home, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006. American troops use it to detect trip wires around bombs, as Shriver learned from her son, a soldier serving in Iraq. After sending some cans to her son, Shriver posted notices in her church and its newsletter. From there, the effort took off, with money and Silly String flowing in.

Silly String has found a deadly serious use among some American soldiers in Iraq, prompting one New Jersey mother to start a drive to collect and send cans of the squirtable plastic party goo overseas.

During a weekly phone call home from Ramadi, Army Spc. Todd Shriver, 28, told his family how he and fellow combat engineers squirt the stuff into booby-trapped rooms to detect nearly invisible trip wires, hidden triggers for explosives.

“If it falls to the ground, there’s no trip wire,” said Shriver’s sister, Jennifer Smith, 34, of Atco, N.J. “If it’s hanging, there’s a trip wire.”

Since that phone call about a month ago, Smith’s mother, Marcelle Shriver, 57, of Stratford, N.J., has been gathering as many cans of the stuff as she could find to send to Iraq.


“My mother, she is like a rock,” Smith said. “All you have to do is mention something to her. And she gets it done.”

Marcelle Shriver, who manages a doctor’s office, put her organizational skills to work setting up a collection point at St. Luke’s, the Catholic church she attends in Stratford, and at an elementary school.

The maker of Silly String, Just for Kicks Inc., of Watertown, N.Y., says it became aware of military uses for its product only recently.

“This is the first time such a significant application has been associated with it,” said spokesman Rob Oran.

The oddness of using Silly Sting in war has struck a chord with the media. Since several local and national outlets ran stories on Shriver’s string drive, the cans, donations and offers to help poured in.

“The phone’s been ringing like crazy,” said the Rev. Joseph Capella, the priest at St. Luke’s. “We’ve gotten calls from … California. We even got a call from Lima, Peru.”

The aerosol, classified as hazardous by the U.S. Postal Service, can’t be shipped via mail, Capella said, but several private pilots from out of state have already pledged planes to fly the cargo to the Persian Gulf.

Just a few blocks from the church, the garage attached to the Shrivers’ two-story gray Colonial has quickly filled with aerosol cans of Silly String.

“The garage is packed to the gills. It’s just unbelievable,” said Smith, adding that her mother — anxious about her son — has realized another benefit from the project.

“It’s definitely helping her keep her mind off the worry,” Smith said.

How to get Silly String to troops

-Donations: MArcelle Shriver is accepting donations of Silly String or other similar products and money to help defray costs. Checks can be made out to Marcelle Shriver and sent to St. Luke’s Church, 55 Warwick Rd., Stratford, N.J. 08084.

-Contacts: Marcelle Shriver also is collecting names and addresses of soldiers and Marines in Iraq who may need Silly String. Suggestions should be sent to [email protected].


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