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Coming home for the holidays: More than $10,000 raised to help Guardsmen get back for Christmas

Fund-raisers have been held, money has been donated, and now local troops are coming home for the holidays.

Members of the Alpha Company, who are preparing in Mississippi to head out to Iraq in March, are receiving 10 days of leave around Christmas time to come home and visit family likely one last time before leaving for Iraq.

Local Family Readiness Group leader Kerri Anderson said $10,000-$11,000 has been raised so far for the roughly 75 troops to come home. More fundraising is being done before the money is handed out to families in the next couple weeks.

She said the total monies will be split evenly between each soldier, regardless of how they are getting home.

The men are scheduled to return Dec. 22-Jan. 3.

The army is chartering a bus to give troops the option of coming home on the bus for $275.

"Quite a few have opted to fly home," she said of another option.

Anderson said even though it's more expensive, it's more time to spend with family.

At one point, Anderson said some families had talked about going down to Mississippi to see the troops over Christmas, but likely everyone has decided to come back to Minnesota for the holidays.

As organizer of the Family Readiness Group, Anderson has been keeping families in contact with the soldiers, which can be difficult at times.

"The hard part is so much is confidential," she said. "But we've been tracking them so far."

Although the money raised now is to help defray the costs for soldiers to come home over Christmas, there are still times throughout the deployment when the men may have to come home for emergencies.

"There's going to be a lot coming up in the next two years," she said.

She said people are welcome to donate throughout the deployment to help with future costs. One man even donated his frequent flier miles for future flights home from Iraq.

But regardless of what is to come in the next two years, soldiers do get to spend Christmas and New Year's with their families this season.

The Family Readiness Group meets monthly for support. Anyone interested in the meetings can contact Anderson at 483-1543.