Taylor Back From Iraq After Visiting Mississippi Troops

Another $70 billion will be spent on the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush signed legislation Wednesday that funds the Iraq war well into 2008.

More than 600 Mississippi National Guardsmen are currently part of that war. Right before Christmas, many of them got a taste of home courtesy fourth district congressman Gene Taylor and Bay St. Louis restaurant owner Tony Trapani.

Trapani knows how to make gumbo. And Taylor wanted 50 gallons, packed, frozen, and shipped to Iraq on the eve of Christmas.

"I said man why don't you just send me over there. It would be easier to just do it over there," Trapani laughed.

But Trapani's staff, and his contacts came up with the gumbo. And a seafood dealer named Rudy Lesso donated 500 pounds of shrimp.

Not only did the congressman fly the south Mississippi delicacies to Iraq, "Had the opportunity to have shrimp and gumbo with the 1108th AVCRAD on Sunday," said Taylor.

Taylor got back from his latest trip to Iraq on Christmas Eve. From his count, he's been to that region at least a dozen times. And when he goes, he always spends time with south Mississippi soldiers. Before this trip, the word out of Iraq was that the region was a bit safer.

"Yes, I got that impression. Things do seem to be getting better," he conceded. "I'm very grateful that the surge is working."

However, the fourth district congressman remains anxious about American troops in a hostile environment. He says that as a representative on Capitol Hill, and as a parent with a son currently on detail in the region.

"Again, the good news is that because of the men and women in the United States military, Saddam is gone, they don't live in terror the way they did before, and they do have a chance for a much better life than they did before," Taylor said.

He proudly pointed out that Mississippi soldiers played a role in that. Tony Trapani was proud to know a sample of his creativity brought some Christmas joy to those soldiers.

"We made it happen for the troops. And that was all that mattered," he said.