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Sending a little piece of home to soldiers

Red Christmas stockings — nearly 130 of them — will soon be headed overseas filled with cards, letters and lots of love to brighten the holidays for troops from the Brookhaven unit of the Mississippi National Guard.

“It’s like sending a little piece of home,” said Lori Byrne, chairwoman for the Family Readiness Group of India Co. 106 BSB. “They’re definitely homesick.”

The Brookhaven unit of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team is in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

The FRG is asking for the community’s help to fill the stockings by Nov. 23 so they can be mailed to arrive before Christmas.

Byrne and others in the group have been collecting items for two weeks and she’s overwhelmed at the generosity of people in the community who have donated “happies” for the stockings — one for each of the service members deployed from the unit. Children at area schools and churches have been making cards and writing notes. Adults have bought cards and written letters.

The student council at Bogue Chitto High School organized a sock drive and gave the India Company FRG 140 pairs to include in the stockings.

“This will be a major morale boost for them,” Byrne said.

Organizers of the Lincoln County Veterans Day Celebration took a group photo of the more than 200 veterans in attendance and the VFW Post 2618 will be writing personal notes “from one vet to another” on a copy of the photos for each soldier deployed.

“It honestly touches me to know that people care so much,” she said. “They are willing to take time out of their lives to show their appreciation.”

Byrne will pick up letters, cards and stocking stuffers from businesses, churches and schools. Contact Byrne by email at loriree08@yahoo.com or leave a message at 601-754-9107.

Individuals and groups can also drop off items at the Lincoln County Tax Collector’s office inside the Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex or at Johnny Smith Photography on Union Street Extension.

Byrne wants to personalize the stockings as much as possible so the soldiers will know who is sending the love to them for the holidays.

“You may also bring a picture of yourselves, group or organization or I can take a picture and print it out to send as well so our soldiers can see all of you who care so deeply for them,” she said.

India Co. 106 left the Brookhaven National Guard Armory in March headed to Fort Bliss, Texas, to meet up with troops from Crystal Springs, McComb and Monticello. They trained for three months then shipped out to the Persian Gulf. They’re all part of more than 4,000 Mississippi National Guard soldiers who are deployed for nine months at the Central Command Theater based out of Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team is supposed to deter and react to threats in the Middle East.

This will be the unit’s third deployment to the Middle East since 2001. The Dixie Thunder brigade has been deployed during Operations Iraqi Freedom III in 2004 to 2005, and OIF 9.2 in 2009 to 2010.

The brigade is based in Tupelo, with units in McComb, Senatobia, Starkville, Amory, Monticello and Meridian, as well as in Kansas City, Kansas.