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Agency gives vets a place to rest their heads

By Meghan Cookemcooke@salisburypost.com
A World War II veteran opened a package he received in the mail to find a large pillow with a note attached, thanking him for his service. He was brought to tears.
That pillow was one of 535 pillows that have been shipped to date by Pillows for Soldiers, a nonprofit that raises money to distribute pillows to troops, veterans and military families across the country.
“They’re going to sleep with that pillow every night, and they’re going to remember that someone is thinking about them,” said David Busch, founder and president of Pillows for Soldiers.
Now the organization is a launching a new project to donate 500 pillows to veterans at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center.
Busch, of Marlborough, Conn., said he had always sought a way to give back to the troops. He was inspired after he purchased an upper body pillow that he described as surprisingly comfortable.
Initially, pillows were distributed to individuals based on a referral process through the Pillows for Soldiers Web site.
The VA hospital in Salisbury was chosen as the pilot for the organization’s latest project because of its proximity to David Warner, the webmaster of the Pillow for Soldiers’ Web site.
“It’s been pretty interesting and exciting,” said Warner, a retired postal worker who has designed Web sites for years.
Busch contacted Warner to create a Web site for the Pillows for Soldiers. Warner agreed but refused to accept pay for his services.
“I felt it was a good and necessary cause,” Warner said.
The Web site was launched in 2005. The Web site has received more than 225,000 hits since its creation.
The project has a special meaning for Warner, a former Navy petty officer third class and Vietnam veteran who can see the VA hospital from the front porch of his home on South Merritt Avenue.
He recalled how troops returning from Vietnam were often ignored and said this project is a way to thank all veterans for their service.
“This is a way to give them recognition,” he said.
At $21 per pillow, the organization must raise about $10,000 to reach their goal of 500 pillows.
All of the proceeds go toward purchasing and shipping the pillows.
The pillows, which are purchased from Snoozer Body Pillows, Inc., are designed in a crescent shape to support one’s head, neck, arms, shoulders and chest.
“These are not your ordinary pillows,” Busch said.
When the pillows are distributed, a note thanking each recipient for his or her service is attached.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Nancy Brown-Perry, chief of Voluntary Services at the VA hospital.
Pillows will not only be distributed to veterans at the medical center, but also through VA programs that reach out to homeless veterans, veterans in nursing homes and troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
After the project in Salisbury is complete, Pillows for Soldiers will move on to other VA hospitals across the country, Busch said.
“It’s a lofty goal, but the goal is one pillow for one soldier everywhere,” Busch said.
To donate, visit www.pillowsforsoldiers.com.

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