News release
Public Information Office   SLU 10880   Hammond, LA 70402   phone: 985-549-2341   fax: 985-549-2061 Spring 2004 news releases Public Information home News archive

Contact: Rene Abadie
Date: 3/30/05
Ben's Kicks for KidsClick on image for publication quality photo 

BEN'S KICKS FOR KIDS -- Ben Necaise (right) looks at some of the shoes, socks and other items collected by Southeastern Louisiana University’s Gamma Beta Phi honor and service organization to be distributed by Necaise’s Army unit in Iraq. Packing the boxes are (from left) GBP President Chris Bech, Heather Bellanger, Robbie Beal, and Arron Pierre.

       HAMMOND --  The American military presence in Iraq can be successful only “by changing the hearts and minds of the people there by showing that we mean well,” a Southeastern Louisiana University alumnus currently serving in Iraq told students at a recent meeting on the campus.
       U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ben Necaise explained that many of the Iraqi people are intimidated, afraid, and caught in the middle between the military and the insurgents. “They are nice people and would like to do more to help us, but they are simply afraid of the consequences,” he said.
       Necaise, who is just completing a two-week leave, is stationed near Baghdad with Bravo Company of the Army National Guard’s 1088th Engineer Battalion, 256th Brigade Combat Team. Prior to being activated, he was a history teacher in St. Francisville. A 2000 graduate of Southeastern in social studies education, he now runs a 27-man platoon, working 24 to 36-hour shifts in the field.
       “We’re basically an engineering company, but like everyone else assigned to Iraq we are serving as beat cops in a police situation,” Necaise said. “The war we are fighting can be very frustrating, because the enemy fights clandestinely; you just don’t see the them.”
       In a slide presentation, Necaise showed how military personnel try to work cooperatively with the people they meet, frequently providing medical attention and spending a lot of time with youngsters who are naturally inquisitive about Americans and life in the United States. A special project started by Necaise involves the distribution of shoes and socks to Iraqi children, many of whom are barefoot in the 30-degree weather.
       While at Southeastern, Necaise visited with members of the university’s honor and service organization, Gamma Beta Phi, which has helped to collect thousands of shoes and socks for his unit to distribute in Iraq. 
       “The people there have very little,” he said. “We started handing out paper and pencils which they treasured and divided up among themselves. We noticed that most of these kids didn’t even have shoes or socks, so I asked my wife to send over some shoes my daughter was no longer using.”
       His wife Ashley and her mother, Linda Ryan, a horticulture instructor at Southeastern, turned to 
Gamma Beta Phi for help. The campaign launched by the student organization spread from the Hammond campus to Southeastern’s centers in Mandeville and Baton Rouge with contributions pouring in and overflowing storage rooms. More than $1,500 dollars in donations were also collected to help pay for postage. Donations can be sent to Gamma Beta Phi, SLU Box 10414, Hammond, LA 70402.  
       Necaise, an alumnus of Gamma Beta Phi, thanked the organization for their efforts in helping the military reach out to the Iraqi people.