[caption id=“attachment_11523” align=“alignleft” width=“720”]WAVES members have made roughly 2,000 neck pillows for troops and families who visit the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. USO photo WAVES members have made roughly 2,000 neck pillows for troops and families who visit the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. USO photo[/caption]

You know those nifty neck pillows they sell at the airport? Well, if you’re a service member traveling through the San Diego International Airport, you may be able to score yourself a hand-crafted version sewn by a World War II-era female veteran for free.

Taking the lead from their counterparts in the Dallas area, a group of industrious female veterans known as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) have been hand-sewing thousands of neck pillows to give out for free to service members as they pass through USO of San Diego’s Neil Ash Airport Center.

“It all started when we saw the WAVES in Dallas doing it, and at first we asked for the pattern so we could join their effort,” said Barbara Ellis, one of a small group of WAVES remaining in the San Diego chapter. “But then we asked ourselves why we weren’t just making them for the local USO, since there’s so many military here in the San Diego area.”

Ellis, who joined the Navy in 1954, is one of the younger ladies in the chapter. She helps to organize, plan and pull together the materials necessary to create the pillows. After collecting donated fabrics from volunteers at the USO of San Diego, the WAVES purchase filler and thread from the local Wal-Mart and then form up into an assembly line and turn out the pillows one at a time.

Ellis said the WAVES have distributed thousands of neck pillows in all shapes and sizes – yes they even make small ones for toddlers and even smaller ones for babies – to military families from around the world since starting the project in April 2012.

“USO San Diego strives to provide comforts of home for our traveling service members,” said Judy Forrester, President and CEO of USO San Diego. “Through our partnership with WAVES, we are able to distribute over 2,000 comfy travel neck pillows, handmade with care using fabric donated from the supportive San Diego community.“

Each week the ladies deliver approximately 20 more hand-made neck pillows to the center.

“We are always in need of fabric,” Ellis said, “and the filler costs money, too, so any help we can get would always be appreciated.”