Spc. Heather Davey put a $587 plane ticket on her credit card so she could go home for the holidays, figuring she would worry later about how to pay for it.
The 34-year-old mother of two has one less worry now. She and 40 other members of the Nebraska Army National Guard's 110th Medical Battalion training at Fort Lewis, Wash., found out Thursday that Nebraska business leaders would pay the soldiers' fares home.
"It made me feel appreciated," Davey said Friday from Fort Lewis. "I was so touched by the thoughtfulness and giving that still exists in this world today."
Banker Roy Dinsdale of Palmer and 20 of his friends and associates put up the $24,000 needed to get the soldiers home. An additional $16,000 that was raised will be kept in reserve.
The Lincoln-based unit has been training at Fort Lewis since Dec. 4, and Sgt. 1st Class Ron Schroeder said all but two of the soldiers in the unit were returning to Nebraska this weekend.
For some, he said, the cost of the plane tickets would have been a burden. But when word came that members of the battalion would be reimbursed, a small celebration erupted.
"We can't tell you how much we appreciate the generosity of the business people back home," said Schroeder, 44, of Crete.
All the money was raised in two days.
"I couldn't live in this country and be as fortunate as I have been without the military being pretty close to my heart," said Dinsdale, who also owns feedlots and other agricultural businesses in three states.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., learned Wednesday from a soldier's relative about the unit members having to pay their own way home. His chief of staff contacted the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry for assistance. In turn, chamber president Barry Kennedy sent an e-mail to his organization's 2,000 members.
"I'm just really proud of our members and the way they responded and how quickly they responded," Kennedy said.
The money is being held by the Nebraska National Guard Association. Col. Daryl Bohac, chairman of legislative affairs for the association, said military regulations don't let the Guard itself pay travel costs for members on leave during training.
After training, the 110th is scheduled to be in Iraq for 10 months to oversee medical units providing health care at detention centers.