National Guard delivers ‘mountain of pillows’ from radio DJ to wounded vets
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Missouri National Guard Spc. Bruce Shockley and Kay Calton, transition assistance specialist for the Missouri National Guard, unload pillows donated to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 10, 2009) — More than 300 pillows were donated by the residents and businesses in the Eagle 93.9 FM listening area and delivered by the Missouri National Guard on Wednesday to the Warrior Transition Unit on post.
The Columbia radio station received the donations after their program, “The Drive,” hosted by Gary Nolan, spoke live with a Missouri National Guardsmen from Afghanistan on Veterans’ Day.
The pillows will be given to soldiers from active duty, Guard and reserve units as a memento of their recovery from wounds suffered in theater after they complete the Warrior Transition Unit program.
Nolan said he got to know Staff Sgt. Norman Robert Proctor of the 1140th Military Police Company, of Fulton, before his unit’s deployment to Afghanistan in June. Proctor asked Nolan to be emcee at the unit’s deployment ceremony.
“I was very impressed with those guys and gals,” Nolan said. “We kept in contact and I tried to keep listeners informed, periodically, so they understand that sacrifices being made by the soldiers — how long they are way from their family.”
On Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, Nolan had Proctor as a call-in guest from Afghanistan on his program, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“I asked him if there was anything he needed,” Nolan said. “He said when GIs are wounded, they get sent back to Germany or the states. Once they heal and are released, they take their pillow with them, so there is a shortage of pillows. Right then, Operation Pillow began. People just really came together. It was really impressive.”
Nolan said after pillows began pouring into the station, they became a challenge to work around.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t get into my office,” Nolan said. “It was like a mountain of pillows.”
With a need to get the pillows to the soldiers they were intended for, and to avoid the costly shipping it would require to move them, Nolan said he began making phone calls to try to find someone to help out.
“We hadn’t thought about that when we first said bring the pillows here,” Nolan said.
The Guard came to the rescue. Nolan said he contacted Command Sgt. Maj. James Schulte, the Guard’s state command sergeant major, and Kay Calton, transition assistance specialist for the Missouri National Guard, who agreed to help transport the pillows.
“The National Guard jumped in and said, ‘We’ll get them distributed to soldiers in need,’ and they snapped to it,” Nolan said.
Calton said Fort Leonard Wood’s Warrior Transition Unit seemed like the perfect fit.
“Since we have a majority of our soldiers there, I decided to take the pillows to Fort Leonard Wood,” she said.
Calton said there are a total of approximately 50 Missouri Guardsmen in Warrior Transition Units at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Bragg, Fort Knox, Fort Riley, Fort Gordon, Fort Sam Houston, Fort Leavenworth, Fort Hood, and Fort Campbell, as well as Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Civilian Based Warrior Transition Unit. Of those 50, 20 are at Fort Leonard Wood.
Along with Sgt. Maj. Debra Havens and Spcs. Ricky McCabe and Bruce Shockley, Calton dropped off two van loads of pillows Wednesday to 1st Sgt. Nathan Reynolds and Staff Sgt. Joseph McNurlen, both of the Warrior Transition Unit on post.
Reynolds said all donations to the program, which includes a total of about 100 Soldiers assigned to post, are much appreciated.
“We’ve had a lot of organizations that show their different ways that they are thankful for what the Army does,” Reynolds said. “All of them are finding different ways of showing their appreciation for what Soldiers do.”