WASHINGTON - Amanda Bailey has a lot to thankful for this Thanksgiving, with her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Bailey home from Iraq for rest and relaxation leave. And as head of his National Guard unit's family readiness group, she's helped to galvanize a communitywide show of appreciation for families of its deployed troops.
Bailey, a military policeman with the Alabama Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 203rd Military Police Battalion, returned home to Ardmore, Ala., earlier this week for 15 days of R&R.
"It's fantastic," Amanda said of the timing, five months into her husband's first deployment since joining the Guard six years ago. The Baileys and their three children will enjoy two Thanksgiving feasts this year: one today with Specialist Bailey's family, and another on Thanksgiving Day with Amanda's family.
Meanwhile, the detachment's family readiness group has been hard at work, ensuring every unit family whose loved one is deployed has a memorable Thanksgiving, as well.
With its families spread throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, getting together to celebrate as a group wasn't a viable option, Amanda said. So the family readiness group initiated the next best thing, sponsoring fundraising events and gathering donations from the local community and corporations.
As a result, 53 Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment families received gift certificates for a Thanksgiving turkey or ham. Already looking ahead to Christmas, Amanda said she expects an even bigger outpouring of support for the families of all 85 deployed soldiers.
"The response from the community has been really amazing," she said. "People out there all want to help and show their support." One donor made a $500 contribution and wants to begin offering monthly assistance to some of the needier families, she said.
Bailey, still fighting jet lag from his flight home from Iraq, said he's passed word of the family readiness group's activities to his unit members. "It's a great feeling to know that people are doing these little extra things," he said. "It means a lot."
In addition to gift certificates, Amanda signed each of the 85 families up to receive free copies of a children's Thanksgiving activity book through Operation Thanksgiving Eagle.
The program, sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army and underwritten by BAE Systems and Raytheon, provided 500 copies of "It's a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and Their Families" to military children stateside and overseas.
The book, written by Deborah Fink, introduces young readers and their families to the history, foods and traditions associated with Thanksgiving, while recognizing families separated during the holiday because of deployments.
"We at AUSA believe that projects such as this are important ways to draw Army families together and celebrate our history," said John Grady, AUSA's public affairs director.