By: Dan Dellinger, National Commander

Now that the holiday season is upon us, we are surrounded by distraction – the endless shopping list, the tempting sales in stores and the many parties to attend. Sometimes, this distraction can cause us to forget that there are still 60,000 U.S. troops deployed overseas. We must remember to honor these men and women who fight for our freedom while we enjoy the holidays in the comfort of our home, with our family and friends.

Remembrance can be shown by sending care packages or by providing the deployed service member with a piece of home, which the Illinois Legion Family has fulfilled for the past seven years in partnership with Operation: Military Kids by giving Illinois deployed service members and their families with family photo pillow cases. The pillow case project is conducted during deployment ceremonies that Illinois Legion Family members attend in effort to take photos of each service member and his or her family prints the photo out on special transfer sheets, iron it onto pillow cases, and present one photo pillow case to each person in the family. The service member takes his or hers overseas, and each family member gets one of their own to keep at home and enjoy the comfort of a “hug” from their deployed loved one.

For the holidays this year, Illinois Legion Family members provided more than 200 Illinois Army National Guard men and women deploying to Afghanistan with pillow cases to take with them. The pillow cases are free of charge to the service member and the family as a way of saying, “Thank you for all you do!” said Cheri Stanton, a member of Post 136 in Monmouth, Ill. “It’s such a rewarding program, and we do it to show them that we still care. That we are all veterans wanting to help out.”

Since 2006, more than 16,000 pillow cases have been made for Illinois deployed service members.

I’m proud of our Legion Family members for this simple act of generosity, which shows our service members and their families that they are remembered during difficult times, especially during the holidays. As you gather with your loved ones this month, remember the deployed troops and their families by reaching out to them and showing your support. Show them that you still care