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Hanscom’s deployed family members ‘rest’ easy
Lt. Frank Schiavone’s son, Frankie, holds the Daddy Doll, his new favorite toy. Hanscom’s Airman and Family Readiness Center provides items such as this to families of deployed servicemembers as part of its Readiness Emergency Sleeping Tools program. (Courtesy photo)
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Family members of Hanscom's deployed 'rest' easy

Posted 10/21/2010   Updated 10/21/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


10/21/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- For Airmen, leaving family members to go overseas is never an easy thing to do, especially when one of those family members is only a few months old.

When 1st Lt. Frank Schiavone, who works in the Electronic Systems Center contracting office as a procurement contracting officer, found out he would soon be going to Southwest Asia, he wanted his four month old son, Frankie, to have something to remember his face while he was gone.

That's when Lieutenant Schiavone learned that he could work with Hanscom's Airman and Family Readiness Center to send his wife and son a surprise.

During an outprocessing brief, Lieutenant Schiavone spoke with Master Sgt. Ray Merring, the family readiness coordinator with the A&FRC.

"Sergeant Merring informed me of all the excellent services provided by the A&FRC, especially for families of deployed service members," he said. "Afterwards, I sent Sergeant Merring a few photos and he took care of the rest."

Sergeant Merring helped the lieutenant with a program called Readiness Emergency Sleeping Tools, or REST. Deployed personnel provide a picture of themselves and the A&FRC makes either a pillowcase or a 'Mommy' or 'Daddy' doll.

"The pillowcase is popular, but the doll is a huge success," said Sergeant Merring. "There are other similar items available through the DoD or civilian companies for a cost, but the doll is done right here at Hanscom."

To make both the dolls and pillowcases, the center takes a full-length photo of the Airman, prints it on iron-on transfer paper and then irons it on a piece of fabric. For the dolls, volunteers cut around the shape of the photo, stuff it and sew it into a pillow-like toy. The items are then sent to the family member free of charge.

Lieutenant Schiavone was fortunate enough to be on the phone with his wife when she received the package in the mail.

"She said, 'I got a package here. What is this?'" he said. "She then immediately started to laugh and cry after she opened it. I immediately received an e-mail from her with a picture of Frankie holding his Daddy Doll, as happy as he can be."

The lieutenant soon thereafter called the A&FRC to pass along his thanks and let them know the gift was very much appreciated. In fact, it's now one of Frankie's favorite things.

"Undoubtedly it will help my son remember me when I get home," said Lieutenant Schiavone. "My wife ensures me she doesn't go anywhere without it, so he always knows Daddy is around."

The employees at the A&FRC know how much little things like Daddy Dolls help both Airmen and family members cope with deployments. That's why they think programs like REST and many others like it are important.

"Initially during inprocessing, we attend tons of briefings and they all become a blur by the time we get orders to deploy," said Lieutenant Schiavone. "The 60 day outprocessing brief prior to deployment is a special reminder of the services provided. I want to express my great thanks to the members of the A&FRC not only for helping the deploying troops, but also ensuring the family back home is taken care of every step of the way."

The center is currently looking for volunteers to help with programs, specifically anyone who may be able to sew dolls together. Anyone interested in becoming involved may contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 781-377-4222.



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