Special Pillow Cases Help Kids Cope

While the major combat mission may be finished in Operation Iraqi Freedom, thousands of our brave troops remain deployed. Their wives and children are here at home missing them. Among those loved ones is Becky Patrick. Her husband, MSgt. David Patrick of the 165th Airlift Wing, left for Iraq nearly two months ago, leaving her and their five children in Rincon. Little David, who loves imitating his favorite dinosaur, is perhaps taking this time apart hardest.

"He doesn't understand or grasp the concept where he is," said Becky. "So all day it's, where's daddy? It's the first thing he says when he wakes up."

To help them and many other families get through this difficult time, Frank Baker, the wing family program coordinator, is doing something special.

"Children have a hard time coping with deployment," Baker said. "We try to bring them into this. I try to get the parent to realize that even though they're only six years old, they realize something's happening. A lot of time they'll blame themselves for the separation."

Baker helps by putting images of deployed loved ones on the children's pillowcases.

"I take a picture and scan it in and produce a heat transfer," he explained. "You bring a pillowcase and we put the picture on there and the spouse or person deployed, the child can go to sleep with their parent every night. It's a way of staying connected."

"I figured it would help the kids a lot," Becky said. And she was right. Eleven-year-old Erin said, "I saw the pillowcase and I was like ooh cool."

"It makes me sad cause I miss my dad," seven-year-old Emily said. But she admits it also brings back lots of happy memories.

"It's been really good for them. I'm thinking it's the last thing they see when they go to bed is the face of their daddy," said Becky.

It makes Frank Baker proud to know that this small gesture is making life a little easier for many families while their loved one defends our country so many miles away.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com