Sometime next week, sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen from Louisiana serving overseas will tear open more than 300 care packages and find everything from packs of Juicy Fruit gum and Chex Mix to coffee and candy inside as a way for Baton Rouge area residents to honor their sacrifice.
Besides the care packages, local elementary and middle school students from East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes signed thank-you banners Wednesday that were distributed to local first responders, including the Baton Rouge Fire Department and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks called Wednesday’s program at North Boulevard Town Square important because first responders gave the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001, following the terrorist attacks in New York, Arlington, Va., and Pennsylvania. Five Louisiana residents were killed that day.
“I’ve seen the sacrifices and risks our first responders make daily to ensure the safety of our community, and it’s wonderful that they can be recognized,” Hicks said after the program.
“The banners from the children are especially touching. To see the time and effort they put into making these is truly heartwarming. We plan to display ours at our headquarters for all the staff to see. They will help serve as a reminder as to who our deputies protect and serve,” Hicks said.
Local officials, including Mayor-President Kip Holden and State Police Capt. Doug Cain, stuffed some of the care packages for military servicemembers. The Capital Area United Way and BASF teamed to honor both overseas troops and first responders as part of the national 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie called Wednesday’s program a great event and praised those who salute first responders and the troops.
“I can only imagine what’s it like to be a soldier overseas and to get a package in the mail, open it up and see some Tony Chacherie’s inside. That must be something,” Dabadie said.
Tom Yura, BASF senior vice president and the Geismar site manager, said the program gave the community an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of unity and compassion that existed immediately following the 9/11 attacks.
BASF employees and their family members started donating goods and money for the care packages in August, said Elizabeth Canfield, a communications specialist for BASF. Other residents donated goods for the packages at various Capital Area United Way drop-off points or dined at specific restaurants where part of the proceeds from Friday and Saturday benefited the program.
Hicks said it was an honor to help prepare the care packages Wednesday.
“I think it is so important for all of us as a city, parish, state and nation to never forget the sacrifices made 12 years ago and what can be accomplished when we all come together in terms of healing and restoration as a community,” she said.