The grassroots project has blossomed from simply being an idea to honor members of the Field Service Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, who will be deployed on Monday, Feb. 22 to southwestern Asia, to now becoming a full-scale support program, not only for the troops going abroad, but also for their families here at home. FSC, 1092nd Engineer Battalion is based at the Point Pleasant National Guard Armory, and its roster includes residents from the tri-county area and other parts of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
“Operation Soldier Care” was the brainchild of Beckie Stein-Lambert, Donna Backus and Janie Collins of ERA Town and Country Real Estate in Point Pleasant. The ladies said that because each of them — and their business — had been so blessed by their community through the years, they wanted to give something back in a tangible fashion. They chose local military personnel as the group they wished to serve.
The group quickly grew as the three recruited others in the community who shared their heart for reaching out to military personnel and their families.
The centerpiece of “Operation Soldier Care’s” initial outreach to troops and their families is a parade and send-off scheduled for 1 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12 in downtown Point Pleasant.
Capt. Craig Huffman, commander FSC, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, said the 1092nd was more than glad to participate in the celebration.
“We wanted to give back to the community for all that they’ve done for us,” Huffman said. “The community has stood by us for many years. The unit’s been at the armory since about 1967. This is the second deployment from here. It’s a different company than the first time, but the support’s been the same. I couldn’t ask for better support from any community. It seems like everybody in the community wants to partake in something. They’ve poured their hearts out to us.”
Huffman, who now resides in Parkersburg, but lived in Point Pleasant from 1978-88, said support on the homefront is crucial, especially for the families left behind while their loved ones are deployed abroad.
“It makes it so much easier for our troops to be able to do their jobs,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about what’s going on at home, if their spouse is being taken care of. They have that in the back of their minds now, ‘yes, they will be taken care of.’ They can focus on what they have to do to accomplish the mission. That is a great help.”
The parade will actually include two phases, with the first portion set to begin at 12:30 p.m. The starting point will be at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School and run down Jackson Ave. to Sand Hill Road. It will then follow Sand Hill to Lincoln Ave. and then continue down 22nd St.
From there, the troops will board a bus and be transported to the Mason County Schools Board of Education office. The parade will then continue down Main St., ending at the Mason County Action Group, located at the corner of Main St. and Second St.
Residents who live along all portions of the parade route are encouraged to fly their flags on Feb. 12 in honor of the 1092nd.
At the conclusion of the parade, a flag ceremony will be held, during which 50 U.S. flags donated by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., will be given to members of the 1092nd to take overseas with them. The committee is seeking sponsors for each flag. A flag sponsorship costs $250 and is tax deductible. Checks should be made out to the Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce and can be dropped off at the chamber office. All proceeds from flag sponsorships will be used to ship care packages to the troops while they’re overseas.
Stein-Lambert said that civic groups, churches or other organizations are welcome to participate in the parade. She asked that any interested parties contact her office at (304) 675-5548, Point Pleasant Mayor Brian Billings at (304) 675-2360, Mason County Schools Superintendent Dr. William Capehart at (304) 675-4540, or Miles Epling at (888) 534-4667.
In addition to the parade, local veterans from AMVETS and the Marine Corps League are sponsoring a spaghetti dinner for the troops at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Point Pleasant National Guard Armory. Dennis Rayburn, commander of AMVETS Dept. of W.Va., said businesses and individuals interested in assisting the project, which is known as “Project Goodbye with Love,” can contact him at (304) 674-3663, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rayburn said seating is limited.