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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Parties set for Guard kin, friends

Two celebrations have been scheduled Thursday for families and friends of local National Guard soldiers who are just beginning their year of duty in Iraq.

Coeur d’Alene community and veterans groups have scheduled “the best holiday party ever” for 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Coeur d’Alene at the Lake City Senior Center, 1916 Lakewood Drive. In Moscow, a University of Idaho student group is planning a reception at 5 p.m. Thursday for both campus and city residents to talk about loved ones who have been deployed with the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team.

The brigade, with some 1,600 Idahoans among its 4,300 soldiers, flew to Kuwait right after Thanksgiving and is expected to be “in country” as soon as the end of the week. The 116th Combat Engineers Battalion draws some 400 soldiers from armories from the Moscow area to Post Falls and Bonners Ferry.

The deployment has affected dozens of towns in North Idaho where high school teachers and coaches, mechanics, bank workers, cops, county landfill workers, salespeople and UI students have put careers and families on hold for at least two years.

In Coeur d’Alene, the holiday party is being sponsored by The Boys and Girls Clubs of Kootenai County, the Panhandle Kiwanis Club and the Disabled American Veterans. There will be a gift for each child of a deployed Guard soldier, plus an appearance by Santa Claus and elves.

A catered dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. Polka Dot Lilly the Clown, balloon animals, karaoke and the making of Christmas cards will help keep the party festive.

People wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by calling (208) 665-1919.

At the UI, where students such as Spc. Katy Studer of Bonners Ferry, majoring in interior design and architecture, and Pfc. Jeff Southard of Moscow, a history major, have been pulled away from classes for combat, the reception is intended to bring townspeople, students and professors together.

The university’s Civic Education Project is sponsoring the “Support Each Other and Our Troops” reception at the Aurora Room of the campus commons. The purpose is to build a social network of local support while loved ones serve overseas, wrote Casandra Byington, an organizer.

People will have the opportunity to write letters and finalize care packages for deployed soldiers, which will be an ongoing project by the ASUI Civic Engagement Board and UI Residence Halls. People with deployed friends and family will talk about their experiences.