Sgt. Maj. Holly Prafke has been deployed overseas and knows how uplifting it was to have a little slice of home.
So Prafke, sergeant major of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron at Cherry Point, organized a project for the Croatan Quilters Guild to make pillow cases for wounded warriors and warriors serving in Afghanistan.
"It’s nice to be handed a piece of home," Prafke said. "Our pillows are kind of shabby over there, and you put a nice case on it for the wounded or those sitting in the hospitals there, it’s nice. I know I liked mine when I got it at Christmas."
Prafke, who has been a member of the guild between deployments since 2005, said most of the Marines on deployment just stuff their pillows inside a T-shirt.
"She told us some stories about the guys in Afghanistan and the ones that get wounded, and it just influenced us so much that we decided to make pillow cases for these guys," said Barbara Lewis, president of the guild.
Member Vicky Garner said Prafke’s stories impacted the members.
"She’s done a few tours over in Afghanistan. She’s seen how it is for the wounded soldiers in the hospital in Germany," Garner said. "They’re transported with basically nothing and they’re given a basic pillow with no cover on it, so she thought it would be a good service organization thing for us to do to make pillow cases for the small pillows and also for the big pillows and send them to the hospital in Germany and then they can take it back to the front with them if they return to the front, but it’s theirs to keep and it’s just a little warmth from home, basically."
The group has made more than 130 pillow cases to send to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where injured service men and women are sent to recover from battlefield injuries.
Prafke said the project is being called Operation Southern Comfort. A sheet of paper will be sent with each case: "The pillow case enclosed brings the comforts of home to our military. Lay your head to rest and have no worries. Small town America appreciates your sacrifices. Hand made by women who are in some way related to military personnel whether friend or family who understand our battles personal or physical. So we thank you."
Member Mary Henris said many in the organization have ties to the Marine Corps.
"A lot of the members of the guild are Marine wives, or Marines or have been Marines," she said. "A lot of us are very patriotic and appreciate what the men and women are doing, and we enjoy doing it. There’s great camaraderie here."
Prafke said that the cases were being sent to the Chaplain Corps at the hospital.
"They do have a shortage of the pillow cases," she said. "So, we’re going to send them right to them and if they like them we’re going to send more because it didn’t take but 30 days to do about 130 some odd pillow cases now."
The fabric came from members’ personal remnants from past sewing projects.
"Some of us are fabriholics and we just raided our stash," Henris said.
Member Suzanne Haines made 36 cases to contribute.
"I just used the material that I had available," she said, adding that she used dark colors because they went through the hospital laundry. "I used everything I had."
This is not the only time the group has supported military personnel and won’t be the last.
"Our next project will be making lap quilts for the guys that are sitting in wheelchairs so that they will have a small quilt that will not get caught in the spokes of their wheels," member Jackie Attaway said. "It’s just great to have a contact that we know they are going to get there. Holly has contacts over there so we know that it’s not going to get caught up in the bureaucracy somewhere."
Attaway said that the group makes quilts for other nonprofit groups as well.
"It’s not necessarily just the Marines," she said. "We support the child development center here in Havelock. We make quilts for them. We make quilts for the Head Start in New Bern, and we have taken quilts to the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill."
The group recently celebrated its 28th year.
"We do workshops. We have a Friday night sew-in once a month," Garner said. "We have retreats over on the beach and we bring in teachers, so it’s really come a long way."
Anyone who would like to join the group can email firstname.lastname@example.org.