Units home for holiday before leaving for Iraq

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many Kansas and Missouri families got their Christmas wish this weekend, as area National Guard units returned home for the holiday before going to Iraq.

A bus carrying 54 Kansas National Guard members from Fort Bliss, Texas, arrived Sunday at the armory in Lenexa, Kan.

"This is the first time in a long time we'll have a white Christmas," Capt. Chuck Leivan said.

The guardsmen's homecoming was one of two Sunday in the Kansas City area. In Belton, Mo., 35 members of an Army Reserve civil affairs unit arrived on a bus from Fort Bragg, N.C.

The homecomings were covered by contributions from Kansas and Missouri residents. They raised about $160,000 in cash and other contributions to help hundreds of active-duty soldiers from both states spend an unexpected holiday leave at home.

Soldiers from two units -- the 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery from Kansas and the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion from Missouri -- lacked the travel expenses to make the trip home. But residents and business leaders in the two states stepped in and raised the money.

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