South Dakota National Guard troops serving in Iraq received a healthy reminder of home the second week of March. That's when 750 National Guard men and women in six units serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom received more than 2,700 lbs. of South Dakota-made beef jerky and beef sticks sent by South Dakota beef producers.

“We've received many packages of food, cards and gifts throughout this deployment, but the excitement that the soldiers exhibited was as high as I've witnessed when they saw all of that beef,” says Capt. Wyatt E. Hansen, commander of the 842nd Engineer Company out of Spearfish, Belle Fourche and Sturgis, SD.

The 88 boxes containing the $20,000 in beef products purchased and mailed with beef checkoff dollars left the Sioux Falls, SD, downtown post office to much fanfare on Feb. 23. Maj. Gen. Michael Gorman, commander of the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard, was there to accept delivery of the boxes from Nancy Montross, a DeSmet, SD, rancher and president of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC).

“We really appreciate this outstanding effort on the part of beef producers,” Gorman said. “I know our Guard members will be truly pleased to receive this taste from home.”

Montross said every South Dakota beef producer contributed to the project through the beef checkoff. Each Guard member was to receive 10 packages of the beef product, vacuum-sealed and sent with a “thank you” from the South Dakota beef producers

“Sending these beef products is a fitting way to show our thanks and support to these South Dakota men and women contributing so much with their service,” Montross said.

The gift concept arose during the SDBIC annual meeting in October. Montross and her husband Bob coordinated the project with support from SDBIC and others.

The 8,000 packages of beef jerky and beef sticks were produced and packaged by Howard Cold Storage in Howard, SD, Montross says. Beef producers helped box the product, prepare it for shipment and unload the boxes in Sioux Falls. Glen Davis, owner of Legend Seeds, Inc., DeSmet, volunteered the use of the company's seed trailer. Legend representative Duane Aldrich transported the beef to Sioux Falls.

Connie Smith is an SDBIC communications writer.