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Military Parents Sew Packable Pillows for Homeless Veterans

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Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

A baby pillow pattern that comforted Marines on the frontlines in Iraq is now serving to soften the lives of homeless veterans.

The handmade pillow measures 12 by 16 inches. It’s sewn from light cotton fabric in many colors and stuffed, not too fully, so it can be rolled.

The pillow is the signature item of the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association (T.A.M.P.A.). Members have been making pillows in patriotic colors for nine years and sending them out with all their care packages for deployed military.

Cyd Deathe co-founded the support group after her son joined the Marines. That was nine years ago, and they’re still active supporting deployed military from all branches and now veterans.

More than two-dozen T.A.M.P.A. members just stitched more than 200 packable pillows to be distributed this weekend at a VA Stand Down for homeless veterans in Tallahassee.

A Stand Down is a military term for men and women returning from the frontlines where they are given a chance to relax and regroup.

“We came through the whole Iraq [War]. We’re going through the end in Afghanistan, and now we’re phasing into the veterans,” Deathe said. “The downsizing of the military and all these guys getting out and where do they go, what do they do, what are they able to do, what’s their future?”

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
A pile of finished pillows rolled up and bound with rubber bands stands next to a stack of fabric casings waiting to be stuffed.

Originally, they requested 400 pillows for the Stand Down, Deathe said. But the time was too short to guarantee more than 200 pillows.

“My strongest passion now moving forward is our veterans,” Deathe said. “Our boys are turning into veterans, and so much of our demographic here in the Tampa area are our veterans parents seeking help because of the issue their kids are going through.”

She said the same support she needed as a new Marine mom – military parents now need as their sons and daughters transition into civilian life and become veterans.

“Once a military mom, always a military mom, 'cause it never stops,” Deathe said.

What has changed is that the support group welcomes families from all the service branches and is also open to people who just want to support military families and veterans.

The VA at Bay Pines in Pinellas County has also scheduled a Stand Down Saturday  9 a.m. – 1 p.m at Bay Pines VA campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines, Fla. Another is set in Tallahassee.

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Another stack of pillows waiting to be transported to Tallahassee for the Homeless Veterans Stand Down this weekend.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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