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Postage needed for 155th gifts

A statewide effort is underway to make sure troops from the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team — which includes National Guard members from Brookhaven and Monticello — will receive care packages to show them they are not forgotten.

An American Legion Post in Tupelo is organizing Operation Mississippi Gratitude, said Lori Byrne, Family Readiness Group chairwoman for India Co. 106 from Brookhaven.

“There are over 4,000 soldiers currently deployed from Mississippi,” she said. “They are asking for monetary donations to help with the postage as well as supplies for the care packages.”

The 155th ABCT, which is headquartered in Tupelo, began a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in June in support of Operation Spartan Shield, said Lt. Terry Hill with the communications office.

“Through Operation Spartan Shield, Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen our defense relationships and build partner capacity,” he said.

At least 30 soldiers from the Brookhaven and Monticello units are currently participating in Exercise Bright Star in 18, which is a multilateral U.S. Central Command command-post exercise, field training exercise and senior leader seminar held with the Arab Republic of Egypt and other partner nations.

Tupelo American Legion Commander Mike Pettigrew said the goal is to get the packages delivered by Nov. 11 — Veterans Day.

“This goes back to the core mission of the Legion, which is taking care of veterans, taking care of troops, taking care of families,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew, who was on active duty for 28 years and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, said reminders of home were always welcome. The care packages let the troops know they’re remembered, he said.

“We just want to make sure we do something significant for them,” he said.

Byrne said items on the wish list include toiletries like body wash, baby wipes, toothpaste, sunblock and deodorant; food items such as protein bars, drink mixes, gum, beef jerky, trail mix and crackers; and personal items like playing cards, books and magazines.

While wish list items are needed, funds for postage is a top priority, Pettigrew said. Initially, $70,000 was needed for postage to ship the boxes to an air base in New Jersey. From there, the packages will be loaded on a military plane to Kuwait. That part of the trek is in the hands of the members of the state’s congressional delegation, he said.

However, the Tupelo post is working with a non-profit and will be able to get by spending about $40,000 for postage.

Monetary donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/operation-mississippi-gratitude. Checks can also be sent to American Legion Post 49, 1875 Legion Lake Road, Tupelo, MS 38804.

Any leftover funds will be used for Family Readiness Group programs to serve families waiting for their soldiers to return, Pettigrew said.

For more information about Operation Mississippi Gratitude, visit the American Legion Post 49 Facebook page or call 662-610-6310.

For more information about the Family Readiness Group for India Co. 106, contact Byrne by email at loriree08@yahoo.com.