Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division will be returning from Iraq to Fort Benning this month. One of the first things many will want to do when they reach their barracks is jump in the bed and relax.
Emily Pettitt wants to make sure they have pillows and sheets.
That’s what “Operation Fluffy Pillow” is all about.
Phenix City’s Pettitt, the wife of a soldier, is founder of Soldier On Ministries.
“Over 1,500 single, junior-enlisted soldiers will be returning this month. These soldiers will be returning to what amounts to a bare dormitory room with a bed, desk and their personal rucksack which will undoubtedly smell like it has spent a year in the desert,” Pettitt said.
“The military no longer supplies bedding or personal items since building maintenance has been contracted out to other agencies,” she said.
Items she is asking the community to donate include twin sheets, pillows, bath towels, wash cloths, shower curtain liners with rings, laundry detergent and “Welcome Home” cards and signs.
She said the goal is to ensure every soldier has a “soft place to land when he or she returns home.”
“We believe this is a tremendous opportunity to serve as truly the first point of contact between our soldiers and our community as they drop their bags,” Pettitt said.
Drop-off points for supplies are Brother’s General Store on Broadway, Jay Auto Mall in Columbus, 3rd Brigade Headquarters at Fort Benning, Absolutely You in Pine Mountain and Summerville Baptist Church and Wilson Realty in Phenix City.
Donna Worthy is an agent for Wilson Realty, which is donating laundry detergent.
Tuesday evening, Boy Scouts from Troop 100 were at Summerville Baptist packing detergent into bags.
“Emily said she needed help so we went down to Sam’s and got a truckload of detergent,” Worthy said.
Worthy was shocked to find out the military was not supplying these items to the soldiers.
“I think this is a great idea,” she said of “Operation Fluffy Pillow.”
“Hopefully, when we get the word out, there will be more community involvement. I think this is something that is really going to mushroom.”
“I don’t want the soldiers to come home and the first thing they have to do is go shopping for sheets,” Pettitt said.
She’s planning to start a program similar to one she was involved with at Fort Wainwright in Alaska. There, quilt makers donated quilts to grieving mothers in the military hospital.
She said she plans to talk with quilting clubs across the country and maybe get a national program going.
For right now, she is concentrating on “Operation Fluffy Pillow.”
“Things are going well but we need a lot more stuff,” Pettitt said.