Overseas troops to get treats from Tupelo

TUPELO – Hundreds of deployed Mississippi National Guard troops will receive care packages sent next week through a public-private partnership.
Novartis Pharmaceutical has paired with the city of Tupelo to send 300 packages to members of the 1st 185th Aviation Brigade stationed in Iraq. About one-quarter of the soldiers hail from Tupelo; the rest come from other parts of the state.
They were deployed late last year under unit commander Lt. Col. Ronald Beckham, an Oxford resident and Novartis employee.
“I have worked with Ron for many years, and he’s a good friend,” said Chad Wilson, a Novartis executive sales consultant. “Our company has a military affinity group, and they do these projects for the troops companywide. Since we have one of our team members overseas, we decided to do this locally.”
Volunteers will assemble the care packages Tuesday at City Hall. Each package will contain a special letter from Mayor Jack Reed Jr., plus a supply of beef jerky, cookies, deodorant, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and a toothbrush, as well as a copy of that day’s Daily Journal.
Reed said he had already planned to send troops a personalized letter when he found out about the Novartis effort, so they decided to team up.
“When I was at the send-off at the armory and wished them godspeed, I told them we wouldn’t forget them,” Reed said. “This is just my way of saying I haven’t forgotten you.”
The 1st 185th will be in Iraq until December as part of Operation New Dawn. Soldiers have been performing air assaults, VIP transports and reconnaissance missions. The group had returned from Kosovo in 2008, and several – including Beckham – previously had been deployed to Iraq.
“It makes me feel good to know that people are still recognizing the troops and their service,” said Beckham’s wife, Amy.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (663) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal