“I can close my eyes and see a better day. Thank you,” read a child’s words written on a pillowcase. “Thank you for our freedom,” read another.
These are just two of the hundreds of decorated pillowcases that were packaged and sent to soldiers serving in Afghanistan by volunteers of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary on Wednesday.
Elementary school students and various youth organizations from around Hall County have spent the past two months decorating the pillowcases.
The packages are due to arrive before the Fourth of July and include a letter thanking the soldier and stating “May you rest your head on the gratitude of a child.”
“We had an amazing response to this project,” said Jo Ann Whidden, commander of Gainesville’s Unit 17 of the auxiliary. “We want to thank our soldiers, and what better way to do it than in the words of a child?”
The project began in 2009 when Becky Pratt, who was working with a military-service organization called Letters From Home, first got the idea to send pillowcases from a local teacher.
“We were collecting letters for soldiers at the time when a friend of mine who taught at Sardis Enrichment School came to me and said ‘we need to send pillowcases,’” Pratt said.
Pratt has since collected and sent pillowcases to soldiers yearly.
“We got a response from every soldier that we sent a pillowcase (to) in 2011,” Pratt said. “These pillowcases touch the soldiers every day and let them know that we haven’t forgotten about them.”
This year, the auxiliary worked closely with Pratt on the project. Members received 500 donated pillowcases that were decorated by students at four elementary schools and several youth organizations, Whidden said.
“I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t cry over something a child wrote,” she said. “Our goal is for every soldier to receive a pillowcase every year.”
The pillowcases will be sent by mail to Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan where Pratt’s son-in-law, Daniel Bowers, is serving his second deployment. Bowers will then hand them out to members of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy who are based there.
Anyone interested in helping with this project may call Whidden at 770-534-9534