COLUMBIA — It's hard for Tracy Della Vecchia to grasp how deserving she is of a national award — humbling, she said.
Della Vecchia, a Columbia resident and mother of a Marine, has been named a finalist for the Citizen Service Before Self Honors. The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation chose her for her dedication and service to the Marines and their parents and families.
Della Vecchia has been recognized for developing an informational website, Marine Parents, in addition to an outreach support program.
Marine Parents has two missions: support the families and the troops and give communities ways to support the troops — really support them.
Della Vecchia's son was with the Marine Corps from 2001-2005, and he served three tours in Iraq. When he was deployed for the first time in January 2003, Della Vecchia realized there was a lack of information for parents of Marines, which prompted her to create the support website.
But her work to support the troops goes far beyond just this.
Della Vecchia and a group of volunteers, some who are part of Purple Heart Family Support, met at Zede’s Sewing Studio on Friday afternoon to make 20 pairs of “tear-away” shorts. The shorts have Velcro on both sides, so Marines who are injured or disabled can dress and undress easily.
“Independence is a huge part of their healing, and without independence it’s tough to heal,” Della Vecchia said.
The Marine Corps Liaison Office at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center requested the shorts, and already, they are requesting 40 more pairs.
Della Vecchia showed the volunteers a photo of a Marine Corps veteran and double-amputee with the first pair of shorts made by Dee Bauer, who Della Vecchia met at an Honor Flight dinner function. Bauer helped organize the sewing event Friday.
Bauer’s husband served three years in Korea. Three and a half years ago, he moved into a nursing home.
“My husband is very, very patriotic,” Bauer said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Della Vecchia is one of 20 citizen hero finalists selected for the award. A panel of Medal of Honor recipients selected these finalists from hundreds of nominees nationwide. Three winners will be chosen.
"A piece of me says, ‘I’d love this for the publicity of Marine Parents because I know dollars will come in, and when dollars come in, that means we can do more to support people,’" Della Vecchia said. "But the reality is, I’m just the person at the helm."
The letter announcing that Della Vecchia was a finalist stated that her dedication to serving Marines and their parents and families continues to inspire and motivate the people of Columbia to volunteer. She is "a credit to the state of Missouri and to her fellow Americans," the letter stated.
“Sure I have the vision, but it’s because of the volunteers that it’s been as successful as it is,” Della Vecchia said.
Tears of admiration came to her eyes as she spoke about the work other finalists have done.
“I’m really humbled to be involved in this, and honored to be among the other people that have been nominated.”