By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
The fundraising efforts of community members on behalf of the deployed 857th Horizontal Engineering Company got off to an good start, says Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown and Picayune Fire Department Secretary Janet Guidry.
The two-day event began Friday with a Radiothon on WRJW that took in $3,200 in pledges. Saturday saw a community boot drive manned by community leaders, family members of the deployed guardsmen, members of the military, police department and fire department that brought in $6,369.45. The total for the two days was $9,569.45, which will go towards monuments for the deployed unit and kitchen equipment needed at the armory.
All those participating in the event were touched by the response from the community to honor those who sacrifice to protect their rights by serving in the armed forces, said several of the people involved.
Picayune Police Department Deputy Chief Chad Dorn said, “I am proud to call Picayune home after seeing the generosity from the citizens of Picayune showing their support for our local troops. Our soldiers make tremendous sacrifices to serve our country and so does their families. Giving up a couple hours on Saturday was the least I could do to help collect money to help support our troops.”
Other community members who participated in the fundraising also were touched by the public outpouring of support for the troops and their family.
Dawn Bechtel said, “Everyone that helped was there because they had the same heart. They were there to be a blessing to the soldiers and their families. All of the people from our wonderful community gave sacrificially towards the purchase of the monument. Our community pulled together to let our soldiers know how much we love and appreciate them. We all made a difference by having a part in raising the funds needed to purchase the monument in their honor. We want to show the 857th that they are loved and valued.”
Reba Beebe reflected on the impact volunteering made on her personally and said, “It was amazing to be a small part of Friday and Saturday’s efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the community and watching the respect given, along with the financial side to support our veterans and their families.
“In short, it would have been a tremendous loss for me personally to not have taken part in the can shake. It was that uplifting and the teamwork was inspired.”
Beebe worked along side a former reservist in the Army National Guard with the 857th Engineering Company who was deployed to Iraq. Purple Heart recipient Spc. Carl Sampson, formerly with the 857th Engineering Company fought through serious injuries received Sept. 12, 2003 from an improvised explosive device that detonated as the vehicle he was riding in passed a checkpoint, disabling the truck. Throughout the two-hour fight that followed and his months of recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center, Sampson defied odds given by doctors and regained his speech and ability to walk.
Sampson was all smiles as vehicle after vehicle stopped to make donations and thank him for his service. He even danced with team members collecting donations.
Picayune Police Department Executive Secretary Ginger Bennett, said, “I was privileged to stand with two of our soldiers as we collected money for the return of their fellow colleagues who are currently serving in harm’s way. It was cold and windy, but they didn’t complain one bit.
“The citizens showed their support by cheerfully donating what they could, even though financial times are difficult. As a very proud mom of a full time soldier, I couldn’t think of a better investment of my Saturday morning.
“God bless our soldiers and their families, our leaders and America as a whole.”
The city’s Special Projects Director Christy Goss, said, “It was a wonderful experience raising money to support our local National Guard Unit 857th with community leaders on Friday and Saturday. Picayune is a great place to live.
“This community will rally behind each other like no other. We may not have the big malls and chain restaurants but that doesn’t always make a city a community. What makes a city a community is the wonderful people in it. Picayune pride is something we can all be proud of and I wouldn’t trade the love and support here in Picayune, Pearl River County for anything.
“The men and women in our armed services sacrifice so much for our rights and freedoms, it is great that we can show them by erecting a monument in their honor just how much they are appreciated.”
Guidry summarized the experience and said, “One of the most humbling experiences of my life was serving food to our soldiers and their families at the picnic held in their honor the day they left for Afghanistan. Seeing them with their spouses, children and other family members allowed me to personally witness one of the true sacrifices they make for me by leaving their loved ones to protect my freedom.
“It was my honor and privilege to show a small bit of gratitude by helping at the fundraiser events held this past Friday and Saturday. The citizens of Pearl River County never cease to amaze me with their generosity. I have been involved with fundraisers before, but this one far exceeded any event I have ever participated in. I am proud to be Mississippi girl, and even more proud to live in Pearl River County. I am so excited that these true local heroes will be surprised when they arrive at the National Guard to see a monument already in place for them.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of those who so generously gave.”