GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Army wives Kimm Geise, left, and Michele Pritchard work on decorating pillowcases that will welcome veterans home. The pillowcases being collected by Geise and Pritchard are from around the country and are meant to remind all veterans that they are heroes.
Operation Headrest ‘a hug from home’
It tore Kimm Geise apart to see soldiers returning from the war in Iraq without any family or friends to welcome them with hugs, kisses and lei.
"I see many soldiers standing off to the sidelines," with no one to celebrate their homecoming, said Geise, whose husband is on deployment. "It's heartbreaking to see."
So she and fellow Army wife Michele Pritchard launched "Operation Headrest," a project to give single soldiers a handmade, decorated pillowcase. "It's like a hug from home," Geise said.
"We are doing this for the mother, grandmother or sister who can't be there," Pritchard added.
They have already sewn 15 pillowcases with red, white and blue fabric, and will keep on making them while others come in. They are hoping to collect 1,740 pillowcases to give to the single soldiers in the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, who should be returning by mid-October, Geise said. Both women's husbands belong to the brigade.
Pritchard said they first got the idea in early July while shopping for care package items. All the patriotic fabric on display inspired them to make pillowcases as thank-you gifts. The same day Geise drew up a flier that they e-mailed to 20 family members and friends, who also contacted others, Pritchard said.
"It just snowballed. People started responding and in one week we had about 1,000 e-mails," Pritchard said.
Military families, the Boy and Girl Scouts, schools, and other groups have made commitments.
They later set up a Web site, www.operationheadrest.com, and were amazed that hits came in from all over the world. So far they have received 95 pillowcases, many decorated with fabric paint and crayon by children.
Their favorite one was sent by a child in Gainesville, Va., who wrote across the pillowcase: "A hero sleeps here" and in smaller print along the hem: "Thank you for your sacrifice."
Pritchard said, "They don't really understand what the war is about. But through the eyes of a child, a soldier to them automatically is a hero. To a soldier, to be considered a hero is the greatest thank you you can get."
Some cases come with handwritten notes attached, but the two women will also pin a message to each that says: "As you lay your head down in the quiet of the night and the safety of home, know that you are honored, appreciated and truly are a Hero, Thank you for laying your life on the line for our Freedom."
A public drop-off point is in the planning, Geise said.
For further information, e-mail operationheadrest@ yahoo.com.