Bears Given to Soldiers Families with Message From Home

BATESVILLE, AR -- One Region 8 community is giving soldiers families something to hold onto while the soldiers are overseas.

The 39th Infantry Brigade leaves out in January for Iraq and 130 of those soldiers are part of Company "B" in Batesville.

"There are 130 solders heading to Iraq after the first of the year and we wanted to do something special for them that they could leave for the families they're leaving behind," said Citizens Bank Director of Public Relations Janelle Shell.

Janelle Shell with Citizens Bank said Project Build-a-Bear is something the whole community is supporting.

"It really means a lot to the soldiers and I know it means a lot to everyone just to be able to come out and see the support that we get," said 39th Infantry Brigade soldier Joshua Edgington.

"When they're across over in Iraq and their families miss them, they can hear a message from the soldiers that are over fighting for our country," said Shell.

"I think the message and the bear was a great idea, that way they hear my voice and any time they want," said 39th Infantry Brigade soldier Shaun Lundy.

"It's really good for the younger kids to hear their dad's voice before they go to bed," said Cindy Long.

For many of these soldiers this is not their first deployment, so having that small connection for the kids can make a world of difference.

"It's really cool.  My stepdad made it for me so I would not miss him when he's there," said Ty Swain.

"I know from the past there's not a whole lot of phone calls and just to hear that voice that means a lot," said Long.

This program had multiple sponsors, in addition to Citizens Bank who started this program.

Other sponsors include:

Calvary Baptist Church

Corinth Missionary Baptist Church

Cushman Assembly of God

Faith Hopewell Cumberland Presbyterian Church

First Baptist Church

North Heights Church of Christ

Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church

West Baptist Church

Arkansas Lawnscapes

Lyon College

NuWay Cleaners and Laundry

Rid A Pest, Inc.

Bobby and Connie Davis

Steve and Linda McDaniel

Larry and Betty Mobley

Cassandra Skelton and Martha Sue Smith

Bobby and Sheila Smithee

Karen Yeagar