Businessman Funds Visit Home For Ky. War-Bound Troops

STURGIS, KY -- Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard's 201st Engineer Battalion will get to visit their families this month before going to Afghanistan, thanks to a $49,000 donation from a Western Kentucky business executive, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

The gift Friday from businessman Bill Baird Ð coupled with donations already raised will provide the $60,000 needed to bus the unit's 500 soldiers from Wisconsin home to Kentucky on April 25 for a six-day visit with families and friends, said Mari Jo Ferguson, whose husband, Lt. Col. Michael Ferguson, commands the 201st Engineer Battalion, reports the newspaper.

"I'm beside myself, I'm so excited," Mari Jo Ferguson said after getting the check wired from Baird. "Somebody up there is watching over us." Baird is the founder and owner of Saturn Machine and Welding Co. at Sturgis in Union County. He now lives in Sarasota, Fla., the newspaper reports.

The company's controller, Julie Quinn, said Baird saw a story about the 201st on television and called her Friday morning.

"He said, 'Julie, I want you to wire them the money,'" Quinn said. "It's going to help these soldiers have some time with their families before they go overseas."

The 201st Engineer Battalion is now training at Fort McCoy, Wis., in preparation for going to Afghanistan in May, reports the Herald-Leader.

But, under Department of Defense policy, neither the Army nor the Kentucky National Guard can pay for the soldiers to come home for a visit before going overseas. (The Army, however, does cover the costs of soldiers' coming for leave during their overseas tours.) Because of that policy, National Guard family members frequently organize campaigns to raise private donations so soldiers can have a visit home before leaving on their overseas toursl, the newspaper reports.

According to Mari Jo Ferguson, it would cost about $130 per soldier to bus the 201st Battalion home. But she said that paying that amount out of pocket would have been a hardship for many lower-ranking unit members. So, not long ago, family members started a fund drive to raise the needed money.

Baird's gift puts the campaign over the top, she said.

Two fund-raising events already scheduled for Saturday will go on as planned, Ferguson said, and any money raised then will be used to send "care packages" to the soldiers after they are overseas, the Herald-Leader reports.

Those fund-raisers will be held at Hamburg Wal-Mart in Lexington, starting at about 10 a.m.; and at Hair Force One in Powell County from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"Six days might not sound like much to someone who hasn't been through this," Ferguson said, "but it means a lot when you aren't going to see your loved ones for 10 months," reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader

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  • by Kristin Location: Lexington on Apr 24, 2008 at 08:25 PM
    All I have to say is thanks to Mr. Baird. My fiance is one of the soldiers and I'm so excited that he gets to come home tomorrow for 6 days!! And to whoever said something about asking for hand outs, this battalion is made up of units from small towns and the people there don't mind to give to help those they love..quit making it sound like they've done something wrong by asking for help. If one guy didn't get to come home, none of them would... by asking for the community's help, it ensures that they all get to come home and spend time with their family and friends, get over yourself and the fact that your husband's unit didn't ask for help because I'm sure if they did, they would have received an immense amount of help. Thanks again to Mr. Baird. I don't think any of us could thank him enough for giving us these last few days with them before they leave!
  • by Amy C Location: Van Lear Ky on Apr 10, 2008 at 11:20 PM
    This has been one of the worst moments in our lives. My husband is getting ready to be deployed and we didnt think that we would be able to see each other before he left. All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Bless you Mr. Baird and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to say goodbye to my husband in person as to by phone or letters. OH YEAH FOR YOU PEOPLE WHO DONT SUPPORT OUR TROOPS FOR THEIR SACRIFICE AND COMMITMENT TO OUR COUNTRY I HAVE THE BEST QUOTE IN THE WORLD FOR YOU.... "IF YOU CAN'T STAND BEHIND OUR TROOPS, TRY STANDING IN FRONT OF THEM!"
  • by Ashleigh Location: Prestonsburg Ky on Apr 9, 2008 at 08:41 AM
    Well to joey and whoever else..its not about your beliefs its about compasion anyone with a heart would support these husband is one of them over right now and thanks to that wonderful man he gets to come home and see his 6 month old son, myself and our unborn child before he leaves us again and i could never put into words my gratitude for everyone who made that possible..but as i was saying everyone has opinions..ironically i dont support the war..i am very anti-war..but i do support those men over there just doing thier jobs and risking thier lives. have your opinion on the war ofcourse every one does..but show some compassion for the men who are just doing thier jobs as you get up and go to work every day and say your boss asked you to go type a report its your duty so you do..its the same concept. dont take out your opinions of the war on the soldiers. and please everyone pray for our troops and the families like mine left behind <3.god bless you all.
  • by Bryan Location: Frankfort on Apr 8, 2008 at 05:14 PM
    Joey: How can you not support the troops? They, like you, are doing a job that their bosses told them to do. You are entitled to feel that way but is it their fault to make you not want to support them as they are doing what they are told.
  • by Joey Location: Lex on Apr 8, 2008 at 06:23 AM
    Thanks WKYT for honoring my request to remove Bart's comments from this board. By the way, I am not the same Joey who posted on Apr 7, 2008 at 11:59 AM. For those who are wondering why I requested the removal; I am a veteran and I felt Bart's words were a slap in the face to every man and woman in the military. Thanks again WKYT!
  • by Michelle Location: Mt. Vernon on Apr 7, 2008 at 07:34 PM
    God Bless You Mr. Baird and God Bless our Troops. I am the very proud sister of a Army Vet. My heart and prayers are with all our troops and their families.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2008 at 06:42 PM
    I am happy that there are still good people out there. However I think it is sad that people ask for hand outs. My husband is over there right now and when he got to come home for his 5 days his unit did not have to ask for hand outs.
  • by Joey Location: Lex on Apr 7, 2008 at 08:59 AM
    Bart isn't alone in his sediments. I wouldn't word it so hatefully as him, but I don't support the troops and could never support this illegal war that's dividing and bleeding out America's resources. But something tells me we're in the minority on these boards. Next time bart, don't give your opinion if it's only purpose is to enflame. There are plenty of real reasons not to support the troops, saying things just to upset thier supporters isn't one of them.
  • by Charlie Location: Lexington on Apr 7, 2008 at 06:04 AM
    God Bless Mr Baird. And I thank you for them. I know first hand what nice thing you as I am a retiree. And for Mr Bart you had better walk on the other side of the street.
  • by Theresa Location: Stanton on Apr 7, 2008 at 03:28 AM
    As part of team Hair Force One Stanton, I am proud that someone stepped up and helped like Mr. Baird. I would like to someday thank him personally. God bless him and our soldiers.
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