Pieces of Home
HER DAUGHTER'S STUFFED POODLE
The toy is to remind S. Sgt. Joan Brown, 32, a single mom, of a promise she made to daughter Mikayla Smith, 5 (whose dad is also in the Army). "We picked it out when I came back from Iraq the first time," says Brown, now on her second tour. "This time I told her when I come back, we'll get her a live dog."
A ROMANTIC WRAP
Sgt. Anne Hiles, 22, an intelligence analyst, is toting a blanket she got to stay warm in San Francisco, where she met her husband, Cpl. Ryan Hiles, 22. "It was there when he proposed," she says. "Now it will keep me cozy at night."
A REMINDER OF HIS SONS
"I'll be missing the education of my kids, that's what bothers me," says S. Sgt. Derrick Webb, 31, who's packing his kids' toy football to keep budding athletes Derrick II, 6, Demetri, 4, and Daniel, 1, close.
A GIFT FROM HIS DEAD FATHER
After his beloved San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title in June, S. Sgt. Daniel Cruz, 26, got this shirt from his dad, Alberto, who died Sept. 1. "He was a good man," says Cruz. "He was grateful for our country."
HER NEIGHBORS' GOOD WISHES
Married on Oct. 13, Pfc. Colinda Petrus, 23, has a notebook of well-wishes from neighbors in Ligonier, Penn., who gave it as a send-off gift. "It makes me feel good," she says, "to know they're thinking of me."