Military.com | Sept. 1, 2006

A Note from Admiral Gallo: Operation Kid Comfort

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to dedicate myself entirely to serving the needs of America’s military families. It is an important job and I am proud to do it.

As I travel the country visiting Armed Service YMCA (ASYMCA) locations, I am always amazed by the wide-ranging impact ASYMCA programs and volunteers have on communities. However, it is the stories of individual families that are truly touching. It is those stories that remind me why I love my job.

ASYMCA recently received this note from Julia Noland, whose husband is currently deployed overseas:

To the staff and volunteers of Operation Kid Comfort,

I cannot thank you enough for the beautiful, heartwarming quilt that you so lovingly made for my little girl, Kaylie. When I opened the package last week and unfolded the quilt, Kaylie’s eyes lit up when she saw the pictures and she immediately started pointing to them and saying “Da-Da!” She carries her quilt with her everywhere and when I see it wrapped around her it’s almost as if her Daddy is here with his arms wrapped around her. The beautiful quilt it far more than just patches of fabric — it’s a tangible reminder that the person who means the most in the world to both of us is doing something very important far away, but he’s always in our hearts.

This quilt will be a treasured keepsake for my daughter now and always. Although it was made to bring her comfort during this difficult time, it comforts me as well, to see her snuggle it and talk of her Daddy. Thank you so much for making these quilts for children of deployed soldiers — they DO bring comfort when we need it the most.

This is why we do what we do at ASYMCA. It is so important to reach out on an individual level and try, in our own small way, to repay the sacrifices these families make for the sake of our country. And while there is nothing we can do to fill the void left by a deployed parent, there are hundreds of little ways that we can make a big difference.

For young children especially, a parent’s deployment overseas is a difficult and confusing time. Operation Kid Comfort was started at Ft. Bragg/Pope Air Force Base ASYMCA in 2004 as a way to address the emotional stress that children of military personnel suffer during a deployed parent’s absence from home. Since then, Operation Kid Comfort has spread to the San Diego ASYMCA branch and our Alexandria, Virginia national headquarters, and has delivered more than 2,000 quilts to children, ages 5 and under, of deployed service members.

ASYMCA volunteers collect photographs from military families to make “photo-transfer” quilts that bear the images of the deployed family member. Photographs of the deployed parent are scanned into a computer, transferred onto fabric, and then, with the help of local quilting artists, volunteers stitch the images into custom-made quilts for the children.

Few organizations I know of make a similarly personal impact in children’s lives. And when I hear about stories like Julia’s, it validates everything we at ASYMCA and reinforces my commitment to our mission to provide support to America’s military families. I hope that you will join me in our efforts to bring comfort to the children of our deployed troops.

For more information about how you can support Operation Kid Comfort or other ASYMCA programs, please visit www.www.asymca.org.