By Ashleigh Covington
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2006 – Passion for sewing and a desire to show support for the military combined to inspire a Chicago woman to launch an effort she calls the "Patriotic Pillow Project." "The pillow project came out of my love for sewing, which my mother taught me and I taught my daughter," Christina Finn said. "I just wanted to reach these individual servicemembers one at a time to say thank you and to empower a nation to participate the same way."
The Patriotic Pillow Project is a member of The Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which highlights ways the American people and the country's corporate sector support the nation's men and women in uniform. Launched in June 2004, the project provides wounded troops red, white and blue airline-size pillows. A personalized note card is also placed inside pillow offering words of encouragement and support during recovery. "I think the fact that we've replicated, in an artistic way, an image of the American flag brings a lot of meaning to them," Finn said. "That is, in fact, what they are defending: that symbol of freedom and liberty recognized throughout the world."
The project has distributed 4,500 pillows to wounded troops all over the world, and Finn said she anticipates many more pillows to come. "I planted a seed, and now citizens are picking up on our efforts," she said. "It just takes one person, and one person making one pillow reaches out to one veteran or serviceperson that has made that choice to serve and protect our safety and security for our future generations."
The project continues to receive overwhelming support from people who want to help, Finn said. The Patriotic Pillow Project has volunteers ranging from ages 6 to 100 in more than 40 states. "Our youngest volunteer, who is 6, personally created 300 pillow covers. He stitched 300 by himself. His mother and grandmother cut out components for 500 pillowcases, but he got burned out after the first 300," Finn said. "So, he placed all the different patterns in a (plastic bag) with a flier and shared the sewing kit with the community."
As the catalyst for the project, troops call Finn the "pillow mom." "I had a young Marine ... who had read the names of 12 of his buddies who had lost their lives overseas, and I presented him a pillow, and he gave me a hug and whispered in my ear 'Thank you, Pillow Mom,'" Finn said. "That, to me, is my thank you, that they realize they are all our sons and daughters; they are our family; they're all special to me. I am so blessed and honored to be part of their lives, to be in service to them."
Finn said she hopes the pillows will help troops recognize that their service is appreciated. "What we're saying through the presentation of the patriotic pillow is that, 'We appreciate you,' and, 'We honor and respect you,' and 'We pray for you,' and, 'You are not forgotten,'" Finn said. "They've done their jobs; they've served," she added. "We owe them a huge bit of gratitude."