DALLAS -- Art teacher Debbie Davis was watching a news program on television late last year that ran a story of two Soldiers' mothers sending pillows to deployed troops and decided she wanted to help. Simply sending pillows was not enough, however. She wanted to make it a more personal endeavor that included the students at her Margaret L. Felty Elementary School.

The dream became reality when Davis presented 29 pillows to Waxahachie recruiters Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Portillo, Staff Sgt. Robert Nixon and Dallas Recruiting Company Commander Capt. Jose Jimenez on behalf of the Felty students this spring.

Davis referred to the television program where she hatched the idea and said she was surprised to learn that pillows are typically not included in a Soldier's bedding when they are deployed overseas. Moreover, she remembered seeing the Soldiers' reaction on the program, when they showed how excited they were to receive everyday items that the average American takes for granted.

"I saw that program and immediately thought, 'I've gotta do something,' so I located the Pillows for Patriots website and decided to get all the students involved," Davis said. "Typically, Pillows for Patriots will take donations and send the pillows overseas on behalf of those who donate but I wanted to make it more personalized here."

With support from school Principal Carrie Kazda, Davis set about making her dream a reality. She ordered the pillows through Pillows for Patriots and had them delivered to Felty Elementary.

Once there, each of the school's 29 classes - from kindergarten to fifth grade - designed the pillows with a thumbprint from each student, drawn into the cartoon shape of a "bedbug" with the student's name inscribed over it. On the flipside of the pillow, a hand-written note read, "Goodnight Soldier sleep tight! Li'l bed bugs are watching over you tonight." In addition, each pillow was wrapped with a small scrapbook that had personal messages, signed by the students who designed the pillows.

Once the pillows were completed, Davis contacted Jim Rodriguez, founder of the Fly-Lower-And-Gather initiative that teaches proper respect and etiquette of the national flag in area schools, as well as a member of Dallas Battalion's Grassroots Advisory Committee. He contacted Soldiers of the Waxahachie Recruiting Center to pick up the pillows and coordinate sending them overseas.

The pillows were brought to Dallas Battalion headquarters, where they were picked up by members of the Airborne Angel Cadets of Texas, a volunteer, non-profit organization that has shipped thousands of care packages to deployed members of the military since 2005.
Nixon said that not only will the Soldiers who receive these pillows be excited about the treat, but more importantly, the students who participated learned something they will take with them as they get older.

"I believe the Pillows for Patriots event was a great display of care, motivation and a learning experience for the youths about the importance of today's military," he said. "The school and the school district took the time and the resources to give back to the Soldiers and to show them how much they are appreciated."