Organization honored for helping soldiers

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Associated Press

Posted on March 31, 2013 at 10:01 AM

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An organization that helps the families of Fort Campbell soldiers while they are deployed overseas is getting recognition from area leaders as it struggles financially.

The Leaf-Chronicle (leafne.ws/10gcgKZ) reports Operation Eagle's Nest was recognized recently by Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers and Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan. They issued a joint proclamation to commend the 10-year-old organization on its efforts to support military families assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and other units at the sprawling post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. They said that effort also helps support the communities surrounding the post.

Clarksville businessman Ed Rufo started the organization after attending a Chamber of Commerce function during which volunteers were being sought for the Adopt-a-Unit program. Rufo said he would adopt the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade known as the Screaming Eagles, but he didn't realize what an undertaking it would entail.

"I couldn't take on something like that myself," Rufo deadpanned, "so I thought I would just adopt the whole post and raise money to help the soldiers and families of the 101st.

"I called Gen. Petraeus. He was the CG (commanding general) at the time, and we knew each other from my work on the Code of Ethics program and the Better Business Bureau on behalf of soldiers.

"I asked him, 'Dave, what about this idea? Would you support me on it?'

"He said, 'Fantastic idea, we never had anything like this before.' So I put together a luncheon at the country club for people in the community who want to help. (Petraeus) spoke, he wrote the mission statement, and that's how it started."

Although its formal mission is to assist soldiers and their families who are assigned to Fort Campbell, it's informal mission goes to the heart of the organization: "Taking care of the nest while the Eagles are away."

A decade of war, rough economic times and competition from other military-focused charities have taken their toll on finances. Rufo and a few reliable donors have kept the organization going, but he says they could use more help.

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com

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