PLANT CITY More than 300 members of a Plant City-based Florida Army National Guard battalion will be home in time for Christmas, thanks to the generosity of the community.
A total of $34,000 was raised in a campaign to charter buses so the guardsmen — who just returned from a Middle Eastern deployment — can spend four days at home, beginning Christmas Eve.
The guard’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery spent nine months in Qatar before returning to Camp Shelby, Miss., for processing prior to their return home in January. They were given four days of leave for the holidays, but had to provide their own transportation if they wanted to go home.
Former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, state Rep. Dan Raulerson and the American Legion led a drive to raise money to pay for the battalion’s trip home and back.
“It would be one thing if they were still overseas but for them to be a few states away and not be home for Christmas, it just wasn’t right,” said Glorioso, a Plant City resident and retired Air Force colonel.
Gov. Rick Scott encouraged Florida Retail Federation members that include Walmart, Publix and Walgreens to contribute $15,000. Most donations came from individuals in the Central Florida area, Glorioso said.