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
SOUTHEASTERN ALUMNUS DISCUSSES MILITARY
PRESENCE IN IRAQ
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,
Necaise, an alumnus of
Gamma Beta Phi, thanked the organization for their efforts in helping the
military reach out to the Iraqi people.