875th Support Council Makes Tough Decisions

AUGUST 31, 2006 -- POSTED AT 11:00 P.M. CDT, updated at 6:51 a.m. CDT on 9/1/06 

JONESBORO, AR --Two weeks from this Sunday, the northeast Arkansas-based 875th Engineering Battalion will be home on their furlough before leaving for Iraq. Thursday night, the 875th Community Support Council met to talk about just how they were going to bring the soldier's home.

The majority of the troops in the 875th are from northeast Arkansas, but over 70 soldiers are from other states. Support groups from Vermont wrote letters to the council asking for additional money to send their soldiers home on leave as well. For numerous reasons, their fundraising efforts weren't as successful as those here in Region 8. But the request wasn't a small amount. They need $25,000 to fly their troops back to Vermont during the furlough. After much discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the request.

"They need to feel apart of the battalion, of the companies they belong to and showing our support I think is just really an awesome way to portray the American spirit," says David Long, the council chair.

Ashley Dean's husband is a lieutenant for the 875th. She serves on the council and feels they've definitely made the right decision.

"They are now part of the 875th. They are one team. They're all going to battle together. My husband is working with a lot of the Vermont people and one of those Vermont people might be the person that pulls one of our guys out of the field," says Dean.

The meeting had other purposes as well. Since nearly an excess of 100,000 dollars was raised, they had to set up future plans for how that money will be given out to the families.

"We're trying to set up procedures and guidelines that will guide us in how we're going to use that money. It's going to be used in excess of the money needed to get the troops home. It's going to be used for emergencies and assistance to families," says David Long.

They also discussed the final plans for sending the troops home and after looking at every possible way, buses seemed to be their best option.

"We researched flying them home versus buses. Two things beneficial about buses: it's gets them home faster than what we can on the airplanes an it's get them home much cheaper, about 2 times cheaper than what it would cost to fly them," says Long.

Ashley Dean says as part of the council, she hopes to see the strong support only continue.

"Please feel confident that the money that you have given is going to be used in a way that will make our community proud and that will take care of the soldiers, as well as their families," says Dean.

It's going to be a faster way home for the troops by bus because the buses will be waiting for them as soon as their furlough starts at midnight. If they would have take a plane, the troops would have had to wait almost 12 hours before their flight left Wisconsin.