(West Columbia) March 8, 2007 - The 218th Brigade of the South Carolina National Guard is training in Mississippi right now. But the soldiers get to come home on a nine-day leave next month before heading to Afghanistan. Area business leaders are stepping forward to make sure the guardsmen get home.
The Total Comfort Service Center in West Columbia fixes air conditioning and heating systems. They also have a warm heart for South Carolina's Bravest. Total Comfort's Jim Reynolds says, "The National Guard is such an important part of our defense and also our community."
The company has made a donation to help 218th soldiers come home for leave, after a call to action from House Speaker Bobby Harrell. Harrell says the community has to make sure "our troops who are going to Afghanistan are able to come home and visit their families before they leave to go on a mission to protect all of us."
He's enlisted the State Chamber of Commerce to get businesses to raise money for the soldiers' trips home. Hunter Howard of the State Chamber of Commerce says, "Members of the South Carolina National Guard and others who serve are the heart of our state. They're here for businesses and communities when disaster strikes and they're risking their lives to protect us during the War on Terrorism."
The donations from businesses are just the latest chapter in the story of trying to bring the soldiers home. There have been several efforts over the last few weeks.
The money will go to the National Guard Association of South Carolina. Speaking for that organization, Cindy Watson says, "So far, we've received about $15,000 from South Carolina and other states around the country."
It will cost $88,000 for charter buses for the soldiers, so they're grateful for the push from businesses.
Reynolds says, "To have the opportunity to them visit their families before they go to Afghanistan - small thing we as a business can do to help."
If you want to contribute to help bring the 218th home on buses, you can send a donation to:
"Defenders of Freedom Fund"
C/O Bobby Harrell
8316 Rivers Avenue
Charleston, SC 29406
"National Guard Association of South Carolina Family Program" and addressed to:
Attention: Cindy Watson
1 National Guard Road
Columbia, SC 29201
Reported by Jennifer Wilson