Troops home for the holidays

Vermont soldiers are getting a ticket home for the holidays, thanks to the help of state residents.With the holidays on the way, deployment also nears for some 1,500 members of Vermont’s National Guard, currently in training Fort Polk, La., for a year-long tour in Afghanistan.According to the National Guard Charitable Foundation, this deployment of Vermont troops is the largest since WWII.While troops have a weeklong vacation over the holidays, roughly 700 of them are required to finance their trips home out of pocket — an estimated cost of over $1,500. As a result, many cannot afford the journey home.Vermonters have teamed up to try and raise funds to cover transportation fees in order to bring home these 700 soldiers of Vermont National Guard 86th Infantry Bridge Combat Team (IBCT).Sponsored by the Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation, operation Holiday Homecoming is an effort to reach a goal of $200,000 to finance the trip home for local Vermont soldiers. “We’ve been asking the U.S. Army to give us as much time as possible so that our people and families can be well-prepared,” Vermont’s Adjutant General Mike Dubie said. “This alert order satisfies that desire.”Goodrow said that one of the best things about Vermonters is that they care about their neighbors — care, in this case, materializing in the form of $200,000 to support the National Guard.Major Joseph Roszkowski of UVM ROTC said that the deployment has had a broad impact due to the number of Vermont National Guard members in relation to the state’s small size.”Vermont has this reputation for being a very liberal state,” Roszkowski said. “But if you look at it per capita, Vermont has the most people in the National Guard of any state.”Shumlin said that the men and women of the National Guard are extremely grateful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of Vermonters.”I think a lot of this has to do with the membership of the National Guard; when you activate a service member of the National Guard, you activate communities,” Goodrow said.