News: Rest your weary head: Pillows crafted for Echo Battery
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - A total of 150 Marines in Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, are receiving pillows in the mail while deployed in Afghanistan.
Kenya Thomas, whose son is deployed with the battery and stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, recently began sewing and sending the handmade desert digital camouflage pillows.
“I had sent [my son] several boxes of toiletries and snacks, but I knew I wanted to do more,” said Thomas, who lives in Daphne, Ala. “I felt it was my duty to do something personal for each of the Marines. So I emailed and asked him if this was a good idea, and he responded with a ‘yes.’ So, the journey began.”
Thomas said she was inspired to send pillows especially because her younger son, Christian, had sewn her a pillow and helped her to make one customized for her deploying son.
So far 76 pillows have been sent through the mail, and Thomas said she is finishing up several more to be shipped soon. Using camouflage fabric from an Alabama store, Thomas said an individual pillow takes her 15 minutes to make. However, sewing pillows for the entire battery has taken a month and a half. Each pillow is also embroidered with red thread.
“I had to find a person who would monogram them because I wanted them to be monogrammed with ‘Ooh-rah’ and ‘Semper Fi,’” Thomas said. “I would cut the material and then send them to the monogrammer. After a few days, I would get them back, sew the sides with a machine, stuff them and hand sew the end.”
Thomas said she has two monogrammers, Jennifer Viens and Andrea Galmiche, working on the project.
Several Marines who’ve already received their pillows like the motivating design and the long-term effort put into the project, including Capt. Matt Ritchie, Echo Battery commander, 2/12. Unlike other field pillows he’s seen in stores, Ritchie appreciates how Thomas’s pillows are uniquely made from digital desert camouflage material sporting the Marine Corps’ logo. His pillow never leaves his rack and reminds him of his bed at home.
“Some Marines just enjoy having them in the room,” he said. “I, like most Marines, travel light. So I only brought one low quality pillow out here.”
To further remind the Marines of home, Thomas makes sure every batch of pillows are run through the dryer with a scented fabric softener sheet so each pillow smells fresh upon arrival. It’s an additional gesture Ritchie said many Marines highly value, since the battery is working all the time.
“It is impossible, no matter how much you wash your clothes or how many showers you are able to take, even at your best you still smell like a dude who’s been on patrol, sweating through your cammies,” he said. “So to receive a pillow that smells like home is one of the best feelings a Marine can experience while deployed. I doubt too many pillows still smell like fabric softener, but it was nice while it lasted.”
Positive feedback about the pillows has reached all the way back to Hawaii. Marine spouse Natalie Price Ealy said her husband received his pillow a week ago.
“He thought it was amazing at how many [Thomas] made so that the guys could have a little piece of comfort,” Ealy said. “It really makes me very appreciative of Mrs. Thomas and that she would put in that much work for men that she doesn’t even know.”
Thomas, an Army veteran herself, said she understands the Marines face daily challenges and wanted to do something to let them know they have support while deployed. Ritchie said his battery more than appreciates her hard work.
“It is just nice to know that somebody cares,” Ritchie said. “For folks back home not connected to the military, life goes on while you are deployed. Many people throughout the country are unaware of what the Marines are facing in places like Kajaki and Sangin. But it is just great to know that somebody thought about us and took the time and energy to let [us] know that they are thankful for what we are doing.”