For three years now, the American Legion Auxiliary has been making pillowcases for soldiers being deployed overseas and their family members, hoping to lessen, at least a little, the pain of their separation. The Pillowcase Project for military personnel and their families provides soldiers and their loved ones with a pillowcase featuring an ironed-on picture of the deploying soldier and his or her spouse, child, parent, or anyone else he or she wants in the picture.

For three years now, the American Legion Auxiliary has been making pillowcases for soldiers being deployed overseas and their family members, hoping to lessen, at least a little, the pain of their separation.

The Pillowcase Project for military personnel and their families provides soldiers and their loved ones with a pillowcase, featuring an ironed-on picture of the deploying soldier and his or her spouse, child, parent, or anyone else he or she wants in the picture. During the family time immediately preceding the deployment, said Department of Illinois Chairman of the American Legion Auxiliary Vickie Eckhardt, the auxiliary ladies take the pictures with a digital camera, put the memory card into their portable color printer, and print the pictures out on contact paper. Then they iron the photograph on the pillowcase and voila — instant keepsake.

The process is surprisingly simple, and the finished product looks very smooth and durable. The pillowcases can be washed, although Eckhardt said she recommends turning them inside out first.
The American Legion Auxiliary Children and Youth Department has performed the project all over the state in the last three years, Eckhardt said, and have made more than 10,000 pillowcases.

Originally the project only included making pillows for the children of deployed soldiers, she said, “so they could give Mommy or Daddy a hug with their pillows.”

The project quickly mushroomed, Eckhardt said, and now the American Legion Auxiliary makes the pillow cases for any family member, and any soldier, who wants one.

There is no charge. The Pillowcase Project in funded purely by donations, said Eckhardt.

“Working with the military is awesome,” Eckhardt said. “They are so appreciative, so cooperative. Our intent is to let them know that we’re here for them and their families while they’re gone.”

The legion auxiliary’s last official pillowcase project was held at the most recent deployment in Peoria a couple weeks ago, but the printer broke down and they were unable to deliver the finished product before the soldiers left. On Tuesday, the repaired printer, along with six women from the William Schaefer American Legion Auxiliary Unit 44, completed the project and finished the approximate 100 pillowcases they had started previously.

In addition to Eckhardt, also on hand were16th District President Marsha Archibald, Susan Mobley, Kay Ingram, Peggy King, Norma Walker and Jean Witkowski.

“These ladies are awesome,” said Eckhardt. “They jump right in. They work hard for our soldiers, our vets and our kids.”

Air Force veteran Marion Goeken, 87, was on hand at the legion building at the time of the pillowcase project and came in to get his own picture taken to give to his daughter and three grandchildren.

“I think it’s wonderful, myself,” said Goeken about the project. “Although I wish they’d take some money for it. They wouldn’t take mine.”

The legion auxiliary women take pride in the fact that they can offer the service for free.

“What has impressed me the most is the look on the faces of the family and the soldiers too,” said Mobley. “They are so appreciative that we are doing this for them, and at no charge. It’s very humbling, and it makes you feel very proud.”

Pekin Daily Times