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Left to right, Patrick Lenhart, Greg Sowyrda, Chris Carillo, and Matt
Baran collect items that will be sent to a military unit in Iraq.
LEWISBURG, Pa. - The Bucknell men's lacrosse team is helping to make Bucknell the first university in the nation to foster a U.S. military unit in Iraq through the non-profit group America Supporting Americans (ASA).
The team is working with ASA to reach out to and foster a unit of about 100 men and women in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, Co. A, 506th Regiment. The Fort Campbell, Ky., based unit was deployed to Iraq in November and expects to remain in Iraq for at least one year.
As a fostering group, the students have been soliciting appropriate food, toiletry and entertainment items, and other goods that the troops can use and enjoy.
Chris Carillo, the senior from Montauk, N.Y., who is spearheading the campus effort, said the group's action isn't about whether the U.S. should be in Iraq. "It's about men and women our age, giving up their lives for us," Carillo said. "Hopefully, this small effort will make their experience more comfortable."
The collected goods, which were expected to be on their way from the Lewisburg campus to Iraq Monday, are just one part of fostering the military unit.
In addition, Carillo said he's been contact with the unit commander to get a list of names and other information about unit members so that students can keep in contact with them. "Maybe some of the troops and our students are from the same towns. This would be a good way to develop relationships on a more personal level.
"These guys are in the thick of it right now and their morale could really use a lift," he said. "Some of these guys never receive any mail. One was in tears when someone finally wrote to him. He said it didn't matter if it was just an envelope with his name on it with nothing in it. It meant that much."
ASA, based in California, has linked more than 100 cities and communities around the country with units in all branches of the military for sponsorships. Bucknell's effort, said ASA president and founder Linda Patterson, is the first higher education institution to join ASA to offer support in this fashion.
"Bucknell is the first college to come forward to join the America Supporting Americans program in support of our troops and fostering a unit," Patterson said.
Patterson said the centerpiece of ASA's work is the Adopt-a-Unit Program. "Believing that a strong, supportive connection between young men and women of our armed forces and the civilian communities they are ready and willing to serve is crucial to morale, ASA has committed itself to building and strengthening this link," she said.
ASA has been active since 1967 when Patterson convinced her hometown of San Mateo, Calif., to adopt her brother's unit in Vietnam.
Story posted Feb. 7, 2006