BAGHDAD - "Thanks for your support" and "MSU Rocks" are phrases that Soldiers of the 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, wrote on a Mountain State University banner June 25 to thank students and faculty for supporting the squadron in Iraq.

Operation Cougar Care 2009 is a fundraising program sponsored by the university, located in Beckley, W. Va., to raise money for the 150th ARS family readiness group, known as the Cavalry Pride, for care packages, phone cards and a homecoming awards ceremony and banquet to support the 500 Soldier-strong squadron.

"This was an unexpected blessing for us," said Sheila Rakes, Beckley, W. Va., the Cav Pride support group coordinator. "All family readiness groups do fundraising and we know how hard it is to raise this amount of money."

Students and administrators raised about $8,700 in a variety of fundraising events.

"We are extremely grateful and appreciative of the overwhelming effort of MSU," said Rakes. "They far exceeded our expectations with their contributions and support for the West Virginia Army National Guard."

The online enrollment department alone raised nearly $900 during the fundraising campaign.

"Operation Cougar Care was an opportunity to give back to our men and women currently serving overseas, and to let them know we will be here for them upon their return home," said Kristen Stump, MSU online enrollment manager.

Supporting military personnel and their families is an ongoing tradition for the multi-campus, online University with locations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington D.C., and three sites in North Carolina.

"At MSU we are proud of our history of support to military service members - as part of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Consortium and through our longstanding partnership with the West Virginia National Guard," said Dr. Charles Polk, president and CEO of Mountain State University.

"At a time when servicemembers of our armed forces are making such great personal sacrifices, we are glad to make it more affordable for them to continue their education," he added.

The university's military benefits have recently expanded to include the yellow ribbon program, which covers the difference in cost of the G.I. Bill's pay-out for private school tuition and discounted tuition rates for spouses and dependents.

Alumni and students of the University currently deployed with the squadron show their gratitude by taking a picture holding the MSU banner to send back to the school.

"It is refreshing to see a college worry about more than just the bottom line," said Capt. Jason Webb of Ripley, W. Va., the personnel officer of 150th ARS and a MSU alumnus. "This reflects on their dedication to both the country and their students."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16