They will be home for Christmas, thanks to the generosity of Blount County citizens and businesses.
Members of the Family Readiness Group for the Howitzer Battery First Squadron of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment have raised $10,500 to pay for two buses that will bring guard personnel home from Mississippi for the holidays.
The personnel are scheduled to have about four days leave for Christmas. They can leave the base near Hattiesburg on midnight on the Dec. 21 and must return by 10 p.m. on Dec. 26.
Jerry Bennett, treasurer of the Family Readiness Group, said they started the effort about two months and initially donors were slow in contributing. When word got out about the effort, organizations and individuals began sending checks into First Tennessee Bank to help fund the effort.
“A lot of companies like Alcoa, Inc., Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola helped us out quite a bit,” he said. “We raised enough for two buses, which came to about $10,500, and we’ve now met our goal.”
Bennett said Family Readiness Group members didn’t want 130 families on the roads during the holidays picking up the soldiers in Southern Mississippi and then having to drive them back to Mississippi after Christmas.
“The buses will go pick up them at midnight on Dec. 21, they’ll get on the bus, get some shut eye and wake up here in Maryville or in Pigeon Forge and then they’ll get on the bus at noon on Dec. 26 and check in down there at 10 p.m.,” Bennett said.
Bennett said many of the soldiers have young children in their families. “This takes a lot of pressure off the families. They’re getting ready for Christmas. A lot of these guys have kids, and we certainly didn’t want them on the road,” Bennett said.