Kentucky City, School Honor Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2006 - Before Kentucky archrivals Beechwood and Covington Catholic high schools hit the gridiron tonight, servicemembers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 504th Infantry Regiment will find themselves at the center of the field.

Beechwood High School and its hometown of Fort Mitchell, Ky., teamed up early in 2005 to adopt the 504th, which is based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., Nancy Taylor, a third-grade teacher and a local "America Supporting Americans" spokesperson, said during a phone interview.

America Supporting Americans is a California-based nonprofit organization linking military units with cities through its "Adopt-a-Unit" program. The organization, which linked Fort Mitchell with the 82nd Airborne unit, also works to provide a lasting bond between military members and their adopting community, according to a news release from the group.

The organization is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights ways the American people and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers.

"Our troops are at war and need to know Americans at home support them by deeds of action," Linda Patterson, president and founder of America Supporting Americans, said in the release. The organization has supported servicemembers since Vietnam.

The 504th, which recently returned from serving in Afghanistan, is set for deployment to Iraq in the spring, Taylor said. That will give the students the opportunity to support the unit again.

"Once they are deployed, we will definitely be sending supplies and communicating with them by e-mail," Taylor said. "The whole school's doing it."

She said the unit can expect to receive letters and cards as well as packages of snacks, entertainment and comfort items.

Members of the unit are getting the royal treatment while they're in Fort Mitchell, as well, she said.

Taylor's students met the members of the 504th when they arrived at the airport yesterday, she said. Today they'll participate in a parade in the morning and a pep rally in the afternoon. During the pep rally, members of the 504th, and Patterson, who flew in from California for the events, will receive keys to the city.

The festivities will culminate with a ceremony to honor the servicemembers and dignitaries including Kentucky Sen. Jack Westwood and Fort Mitchell Mayor Tom Holocher, before the game tonight. Fans also can write or video tape a message for the troops during the game, according to the news release.

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