Musicians’ gifts help raise funds for soldiers fighting oversees

Published 2:43 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Mark Herndon, the former drummer of music sensation Alabama, heard that National Guard soldiers in Brundidge and Phenix City needed his help, he didn’t just give a few words of support.

Instead, he gave away one of his gold records and a pair of signed drumsticks.

These items, plus a signed cookbook, photograph and vanity plate from Hank Williams, Jr., are just some of the many items being donated for an auction to provide Christmas care packages to 170 national guards.

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The auction will be held Saturday at the Municipal Building in Banks. The auction will start at 6 p.m. The event is sponsored by Ben Anders and Charlie’s Angels, and the proceeds will go to the Family Readiness Group in Brundidge.

The Family Readiness Group is a support structure for the spouses and loved ones of national guards. The donated funds will provide care packages for the soldiers and a cookout when they return in August, said Cindy Sneed, chairperson of the group.

“Christmas is coming up,” she said. “A lot of them aren’t going to get anything and we want to make sure they do.”

For Sneed, the gold record was a golden ticket for the auction. She hopes it will attract country music fans and Army supporters alike.

“It’s the original, it’s beautiful,” she said.

Herndon, who has a home in Fort Payne, has a strong connection to Brundidge and its guards. His neighbor, Pierce Pettis, has a son named Rayvon who serves as First Lieutenant for the 900th Maintenance Company in Brundidge and Phenix City. Herndon was like an uncle to young Rayvon, Pierce Pettis said.

So, Pettis asked Herndon if he could offer a little something for the auction. Pettis was expecting a signed photo, maybe, or an old piece of musical equipment. So you can imagine his surprise when he came home one day to find a gold record on his doorstep. The record was an award for the song “Roll On,” which Pettis called a perfect tribute for soldiers who run convoys and drive maintenance trucks.

“For him to donate that particular item is significant,” he said.

For those in the National Guard, a call to war can leave a family without an income and a soldier without a place to call home, Pettis said. Through his help in the auction, he wants the soldiers to know they have the support they deserve and recognition for their sacrifice.

“These are guys who have normal jobs. You’re completely sucked out of your normal life,” he said. “The very worst thing is to be over there and feel like no one cares.”

The burden is equally difficult to bear for the families left behind.

“Your breadwinner has been shipped off to Afghanistan,” Pettis said. “All we’re trying to do is raise a little money to send these guys a little something for Christmas.”

Pettis and his daughter, Grace, who are also musicians, will be donating CDs to the auction as well.

With the proceeds and various item donations, Sneed said the Family Readiness Group plans to send bags with cards, socks, warmers for hands and feet, and toiletries.

“It gets so cold over there,” she said.

The cards and bags will be decorated by kindergarteners in Phenix City and Arrington.

“You know how funny kids draw,” she said with a laugh.

Apart from making the soldiers smile, it’s also an opportunity for children to show their support.

“A lot of children have parents gone or they know someone who’s gone,” she said.

“If their wives have a problem, they can come to us,” she said.

In addition to the autographed donations, there will be an array of items up for bid, including gift certificates, a turkey cooker, a stay at the Marriott Courtyard, and other items. Refreshments, barbecue sandwiches, hotdogs and chili will also be served.

“We’re here to help the families and the soldiers,” Sneed said.