04/27/04 — Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deployment means pillowcases needed

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Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deployment means pillowcases needed

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on April 27, 2004 2:04 PM

Groups of airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will be deploying soon, and many children will have to deal with the temporary absence of one or both of their parents.

The base is using a popular resource, pillowcases, to make the transition easier for the children and other loved ones left behind.

Master Sgt. Lee Wright of the base's Family Support Center said deployments are expected in May or June and in September. Airmen will be part of the Air Expeditionary Force supporting the war in Iraq. The base will not say how many are being deployed.

Sgt. Wright is responsible for helping military families prepare. The base instituted the pillowcase program three years ago, and she said it has become popular, especially around and during deployment times.

A picture of the person being deployed is ironed onto the pillowcase. Many times it is the last picture their children or other loved ones have of them before they deploy. A pillow case is also made for the deployed airmen, of their family.

"They really have a lot of meaning," Sgt. Wright said.

Last year the base made over 900 pillow cases with the help of volunteers and donations of pillowcases from local companies. There are only 300 pillow cases left, though, and the base is hoping to receive more donations before this year's deployments.

The airmen receive one pillow case free and then have to bring in more if they wish to have more done.

Tech Sgt. Tanya Grater with the 4th Medical Group deployed to Southwest Asia last year and her in-laws took a picture of her four children, which was put on a pillowcase and mailed to her.

It was a surprise when she received the pillowcase in the mail along with an audio tape of her daughter, Sierra, singing nursery songs and reciting the pledge of allegiance. She was 3 at the time and could pronounce every word, said Sgt. Grater.

Her husband, Staff Sgt. John Grater with the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, was deployed to the same place, and they got to listen together and played it for others.

She said having the picture made it easier at night, and all of her roommates wanted one, too.

Her children also received a pillow case with a picture of them before they deployed. She said Sierra had a hard time dealing with them being gone and would cry herself to sleep at night. She could hug the pillow anytime she missed her parents, and it provided a sense of family togetherness during a tough time.

"It truly does make a big difference for kids," said Sgt. Wright.