Buck Watford of Port St. Joe is currently on his fourth deployment to the battle theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Terry Thompson, another Port St. Joe resident, is, like Watford, currently serving in Afghanistan.
That is not their only connection and their shared schooling at Troy (AL) University has ignited a drive to gather goodie bags and care packages to send to the two men.
The Panama City site of Troy University is on a campaign to give back to Thompson and Watford, both alumni.
“We need local support,” said Matthew Wright, a recruiter for the Panama City site. “They are over there for us and we are trying to do something to take care of them.”
Wright said the drive aims on donations of all kinds, from money for shipping postage to canned goods and other non-perishable items.
Even a handwritten note can make a difference for a soldier overseas, Wright said.
“It just means the world to these soldiers,” Wright said. “Terry received one from the school and his parents were also real touched.”
Pam Watford, Buck’s wife and a teacher at Port St. Joe Junior High, said that this deployment, which began in the spring and will continue until just after the first of the year, has been more difficult than she originally thought.
Afghanistan, she said, has turned out to be a much different theater of war – she noted recent incidents of men dressed in Afghan army/police uniforms shooting American soldiers among other factors – than Iraq.
And she added that while she initially thought with her two children, Haley and Chase, grown this would be an easier deployment on the home front, she said that hasn’t always necessarily been the case.
As military family members can attest, emotions are an unpredictable part of war.
She added that Troy University is a true partner to the military, doing much to accommodate military members wishing to continue their educations.
“I know Troy in the past has been very military friendly,” Pam Watford said. “They are also very good with providing online courses to those in the military.”
The Panama City site is a prime example of the opportunities.
Though the site has a few classrooms, it is primarily an office for registration and outreach for students wishing to pursue dozens of degree options offered by Troy.
The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
And for the coming weeks the school is reaching out to Thompson and Watford.
Pam Watford said that the school has already sent care packages of Troy memorabilia – a coozie or t-shirt – in the past, but this drive is more concentrated and aimed at making a difference as the holidays approach.
There are boxes for donations in Pam’s classroom as well as other classrooms and locations around Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
Chase has his Troy University fraternity, FarmHouse, involved in the effort.
The goal is to send packages off next week.
For any questions or to coordinate a donation contact Wright at 747-0634 (office) or 227-8276 (cell).
“We are trying to just get what we can and send it off to them,” Wright said. “We are not trying to push anything on anybody. This isn’t about Troy University. This is about our alumni who are serving overseas.
“We just thought, if we are going to support an alumnus, why not Buck and Terry who are over there for us. This is a win-win for everybody involved.”