Source : The SouthtownStar
Publish Date : 03/21/2008
Note: No longer available via web.
Today we meet Christina Finn, a 50-year-old Oak Lawn mother of three, whose Patriotic Pillow Project has been distributing flag-themed pillows to wounded veterans since 2004.
The story shouldn’t be about me. The Patriotic Pillow Project isn’t about me. It’s about doing something for our healing heroes.
We’ve distributed more than 8,850 pillows to wounded veterans. They’re our way of letting the men and women who defend our country know that their service and their courage and commitment is appreciated, that we’re praying for them.
The pillow covers look like American flags, but they’re not, they’re creative representations of the flag. We would never do anything to disrespect the flag and we always follow the flag code.
My husband Dan fought in Vietnam and he lost a foot there in an R.P.G attack, but that’s never stopped him from doing anything, and a lot of the time people don’t even notice. My son Ryan served in Iraq for 15 months and that’s when this all got started.
It started out small, with just a few pillows, but since then it’s taken over my life. I’m obsessed with it. Our living room is filled with boxes of pillows and pillow covers. They used to be literally up to the ceiling and we’ve got more in the garage. We can’t afford a warehouse.
I never thought it would get this big. I’m lucky if I’m home one or two weekends a month.
We ship them straight to Iraq, to Landstuhl in Germany, to Walter Reed, all over the place. We’ve had pillows signed by Col. Oliver North, Nancy Sinatra, Donald Trump, Bo Derek, Peter Pace, Donald Rumsfeld, Gary Sinise, you name it. Veterans who served in Iowa Jima or Battle of the Bulge sign them for us and that means something to the younger guys.
We have volunteers in almost every state who sew the covers and write notes to the recipients. The pillows are manufactured and donated by the Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens, which has 131 developmentally disabled people who make the pillows, and they do amazing work. I think that’s very appropriate because they’re overcoming limitations of their own to lead productive lives.
Sometimes a pillow opens up a door with the veteran who gets it. It’s like permission for them to remember what they experienced. A lot of emotions can come back. But it’s like someone told me who was in Mogadishu: “It’s OK to look back, but don’t stare.” No one should be sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here in America.
I know it’s not politically correct and you’re not supposed to say what you think about the war, but I always say I believe in our troops and I believe in their mission. We have to finish what we started. We can’t cut and run. When I say that, I’m voicing what they say to me. I think the surge has worked and is working and it’s a shame the media doesn’t report that more. The focus is always on the negative.
We’re standing up for America, for the way it used to be. America’s kind of crazy right now. It’s unnerving.
My parents were in Holland under the Nazis. They taught me to be proud of this country, and I truly believe it is a bright and shining beacon. When I went to England, I was decked out in red, white and blue. I went over there as a proud American – you better believe it, bucko. One of the greatest moments in my life was waving a big American flag on Trafalgar Square.
I’ve been to Washington 18 times now. We go to different politicians’ offices, dinners, rallies, we visit veterans who’re recovering, we try to lift their spirits. I’m exhausted when I get back, but we want to make sure that our elected officials know how important it is to take care of our heroes. Our main issue is health care and we want veterans to know they have options.
I’m a surgical technician. I always wanted to be involved in the really complicated procedures. Give me a good a good brain surgery. I never wanted to do the fluffy stuff.
I met Tommy Franks after he gave a speech. I went up to him and told him I was the pillow lady and I thanked him on behalf of all American mothers and I asked him for a hug like I always do. He actually started to tear up. I’m like, “Oh, no, I made the general cry!”
Because of the pillow project, I’m always wheeling and dealing. And I’m always pinching pennies. I have to, because every dollar that’s wasted is a dollar that could be used to get a pillow to a veteran.
I talked U-Haul into giving me a huge truck for the same price as a smaller one. Then when I got to the CARC, it was so huge, it had so much space, when they gave me a thousand pillows it barely made a dent. I left with 3,300 pillows that day thanks to their generosity. Then I had to find somewhere to put them.
I always say the most important thing you can do is reach outside of yourself, to do something positive and uplifting. When Sept. 11 happened, I couldn’t believe it, I thought it wasn’t real. But then I was sitting at the kitchen table with my family and I said, “We need to buy airplane tickets!”
They said, “Are you crazy?” But I said, “We can’t let them win. We can’t be afraid. We have to fight back in whatever way we can.”
This is Christina Finn’s story, as told to SouthtownStar staff writer Nathaniel Zimmer, who can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 633-5994