Troops coming home for the holidays thanks to fundraising - WFLA News Channel 8

Troops coming home for holidays thanks to fundraising

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The American Legion post 71 in Lake Wales is raising money to bring National Guard troops home for the holidays. The American Legion post 71 in Lake Wales is raising money to bring National Guard troops home for the holidays.
Christopher Ludd & family. Picture was taken in January 2013 before his deployment Christopher Ludd & family. Picture was taken in January 2013 before his deployment
LAKE WALES, FL (WFLA) -

Dozens of National Guard troops are now expected to head back to the Tampa Bay area for a holiday break, thanks to a successful fundraising push that raised thousands to pay for their transportation.

The troops were scheduled to be back in the states after serving in Southwest Asia, but would still be a $200 bus ride away at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

"It's heartwarming that there are still people that want to give and not even know who we are really," said Christina Ludd, whose husband Christopher Ludd is scheduled to return after serving in Quatar.

The couple had decided the bus fare was too much to spend for a short trip home, but they are now planning to surprise their four children.

American Legion Post 71, based in Lake Wales, started trying to raise money several weeks ago to at least bring down the cost of bus fare, which would total about $35,000 for the nearly 200 local troops coming from the Mississippi base. Through donations ranging from $25 to $5,000, the post raised about $17,000, said commander Andy Anderson.

Anderson said some donors told them of their own family members away for the holidays.

"They all have stories, one lady her son is in Germany, he can't be home for Christmas," he said. "Another lady's son is somewhere else, he can't be home for Christmas."

Governor Rick Scott tweeted challenges to Florida retailers, asking for $5,000 donations to the effort. Several responded including Bradenton-based Bealls and Lakeland-based Publix, according to tweets from the Governor's account.

Between the American Legion's fundraising and the Governor's office, it's unclear exactly how much money was raised, but organizers (including the Governor in a tweet) say they believe it will be enough to bring the troops back to the Bay area. They will have to return to Camp Shelby after a short stay.


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