Students want soldiers in Iraq to enjoy comforts of home

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Baby wipes, books, games, lip balm, and food are bound for Iraq. There are 40 boxes in all and they were collected by four Service Learning students at the Jeff Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

"It's just our way of saying 'Thank you' for all you do," said Kamy Vo.  "Because all they have over there are MREs.  And just sunflower seeds or beef jerky, stuff that will remind them of the U.S. and home."

"My dad is a veteran and he's a disabled veteran now," said Kevin Kotula.  "I know a lot of people seem to forget, and I don't want them over there to feel like we've forgotten them."

The original plan was to ship all of the items directly to Iraq, but the class couldn't find a way to do it.  So their instructor contacted Rep. Gene Taylor's office, who put them in touch with the 155th Army National Guard.

On Friday, members of the 155th showed up at JD to pick up the donations.  The timing is perfect because the soldiers are getting ready to deploy to Iraq sometime this summer.

"It shows that even the young generation wants to have a part in an actual fight," said Capt. Christopher Mark with the 155th Army National Guard.  "It might not be actually serving in the armed forces, but in some shape or fashion, I mean they are contributing."

"We call this project 'Far From Home, But Close To Our Hearts.' And we want them to know that we're thinking about them and we support them," said Social Studies Instructor LeeAnn Rasmussen.

And the 155th will distribute the comfort items once they reach the Middle East.

"It feels good," said Vo.  "They were thanking us personally earlier and it touched my heart."

"The little bit that we did get, they were so grateful for.  Yeah, it made it all worth it," said Kotula.

Back in 2006, another group of college students at JD sent 246 boxes of supplies to Iraq.  The goal this time was 400 boxes.  However, the students believe the sluggish economy is to blame for a big drop in donations this year.

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