Between Iraq and a soft place: Couple's pillows offer troops comfort

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on March 23, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 23 at 7:59 PM

COLLEYVILLE - In the dining room of a fine home in Colleyville, bolts of fabric lean in corners and colorful neck pillow patterns cover the table waiting to be sewn. Some are western with cowboys and cattle. Some have zebra stripes.

Dianna Titel's sewing machine rattles like a machine gun for hours as she puts them together.

Every day. Stitching pillows in the dining room. Stuffing in the den. Packing in the sun room. Enough to outfit two full divisions.

"Close to 50,000," she said. "Maybe more. Give or take."

That's right - 50,000 pillows. It's all give and no take.

And it's been this way for Dianna and Dale Titel since they first started welcoming R&R flights at D/FW International Airport.

The experience so moved them, they volunteered with the USO to help soldiers returning to war.

The hard part - when children sometimes can't let go.

"Just yelling. Almost blood-curdling," Dale said, shuddering at the image. "'Daddy, daddy, please don't go.'"

Dale is a Vietnam vet, determined to give soldiers the support he missed.

"Not many people can do it," he said. "I'm not even sure how we can do it. When we walk away, we're usually drained. That's when the emotions come out."

A simple neck pillow, they thought, might cushion the pain a little for the troops. They call them "pillows for patriots." Two-and-a-half years later, the mission consumes them.

"It has become my life," Dianna said. "And it's a good one."

Especially good when they see the faces. And receive the photos from soldiers far away. One grateful Marine sent a flag that flew over the embattled city of Fallujah, Iraq.

The pillows cost one hug. Dianna will take more if she can get them from soldiers waiting for their plane overseas.

Specialist Hunter Fite leaned his head back on his pillow and smiled in Terminal B Friday afternoon.

"Laying back here, kind of relaxing - I'm enjoying this," he said.

Sergeant James Loring appreciated the work done for him.

"I know it takes time to do this," he said. "My mother is a quilter."

It's harder than they know.

Both Dianna and Dale Titel have debilitating health conditions. He's disabled by poor eyesight. Yet they faithfully deliver their pillows every Friday.

They'll be sad when the last flight leaves D/FW next Friday.

That's one week to cut, stitch and stuff another 240 pillows for patriots.

And they're already hearing from soldiers and civilians looking for a way to start the tradition at Atlanta's airport, which will handle all troop departures after March 30.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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