Governor Rick Scott and Florida retailers today announced that troops from the Florida National Guard 3rd Artillery Battalion will officially be coming home to Florida to be with their families for Christmas. On Monday, Governor Rick Scott issued a challenge, via twitter, to major Florida retailers to help raise $35,000 to support troops returning from deployment.
Governor Scott said, "I am proud to announce today that from the overwhelming support of our Florida retailers, we are now able to give all 300 soldiers of the Florida National Guard 3rd Artillery Battalion the opportunity to come home for Christmas. Our Florida retailers have answered the call to action and have provided a priceless gift to our heroes that serve our nation every day. This time of year is about being with family, and I am glad these brave men and women get to spend Christmas with their families and loved ones."
On Christmas Eve, the 3rd Artillery Battalion of the Florida National Guard is bringing close to 300 Florida soldiers home from Afghanistan. These troops will be flown into Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and will be bused to Florida to be with their families for Christmas. After Christmas, these troops will be taken back to Camp Shelby to complete their final demobilization interview process, as required by the Department of Defense for all returning soldiers.
There are ten Florida retailers that answered the call to action. These companies include: Publix Supermarkets, the Florida Retail Federation, Walgreens, Great Bay Distributors, Food Marketers Institute Foundation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, Badcock Home Furniture & more, Chico's FAS, Bealls Department Stores, and Wal-mart.
Major General James Tyre, Assistant Adjutant General, Florida Army National Guard said, "Were it not for the generosity of many businesses and the Governor's office, most of the Soldiers from 3-116th would not have the ability to be with their families this Christmas. We thank our Florida leaders, communities and businesses who rallied to bring our Soldiers home when they arrive at Camp Shelby, Mississippi this weekend. There could be no greater homecoming for these Soldiers and their families."
"The holidays are a time for family and friends and for creating special memories to last a lifetime," said Publix President, Todd Jones. "This holiday season, Publix is proud to partner with other Florida retailers to bring home the men and women who serve and protect our country and freedom every day. To our extraordinary heroes, thank you for your service and welcome home!"
"We are excited about the opportunity to bring these men and women home for the holidays. We appreciate the leadership of Governor Scott in making this possible, and are very proud to support the Florida National Guard," said W.R. "Sandy" Fortin, Chairman of the Board of the Florida Retail Federation & CEO of Lakeland-based S&J Sports, dba Play It Again Sports.
"As the holiday season begins with friends and families gathering to celebrate, we wanted to express our gratitude to those who served or are currently serving our nation. We are grateful for their service, sacrifice and courage," said Marlin Hutchens, market vice president of central Florida for Walgreens. "We applaud Governor Scott for issuing this challenge as a great way to show our appreciation. We are proud to be among other Florida retailers that joined together to bring the men and women of the Florida National Guard home for the holidays."
"Great Bay's family ownership and its employees understand the sacrifice these troops have made in their service to our country. It is only fitting they get home to their loved ones as soon as possible. We hope this can allow some families to have an extra special gift Christmas Day. Being located in the late Representative Young's district, we feel this is a fitting way of honoring his commitment to the Armed Forces, as well as giving in honor of the veterans who currently work at Great Bay. From our families to the families of these troops, we hope they have a merry Christmas," said Ron Petrini, CEO, Great Bay Distributors.
"Our service men and women and their families make sacrifices for us every day," said Sandy Kennedy, president of Retail Industry Leaders Association. "We are honored to join Governor Scott and local leaders to give back by ensuring that members of the Florida National Guard make it home in time to spend the holidays with their families."
"W.S. Badcock is delighted to be a part of Governor Rick Scott's mission to bring home the 178 National Guard soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, home to Florida for the Christmas holiday," said Wogan S. Badcock, III, Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Public affairs of Badcock Home Furniture & more. "It is an honor to be a part of bringing such special Christmas joy to all of those families, and to give thanks to our service men and women who have served to protect us."
"Chico's FAS, Inc. is proud to support the men and women who serve our country. We're happy to help bring them home to spend time with family and friends this holiday season," said David Dyer, President and CEO,Chico's FAS, Inc.
Dan Doyle, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bealls, Inc. said, "The entire Bealls family of associates is grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform around the world. We are humbled by the sacrifices they make for us each and every day. We are truly honored to help reunite them with their families this Christmas."
"The holidays are a very special time of year, and at Walmart we recognize the importance of the season for many Americans. That is why we are glad to be participating in this effort to bring our servicemen and women home to their families for the holidays." said Monesia Brown, Director of Public Affairs of Walmart Stores, Inc.