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August 20, 2004   Email to Friend 

Soldiers Enjoy Gift Of Alabama Peanuts
Beth Farnsworth

Sgt. Maj. Steve Boatwright of the 115th Signal Battalion holds some of the 2,000 packets of Alabama peanuts shipped to soldiers in Iraq.
They work long hot hours, facing injury and even death as they serve our country, and at the end of the day they return to care packages filled with...peanuts? Yes, that's right, U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq receive boxes filled with many different items, but one battalion stationed in Mosul, Iraq had a craving for something a bit out of the ordinary. They wanted homegrown Alabama peanuts.

After the city of Dothan and a local Christian radio station sent boxes filled with inspirational CDs and CD players to Iraq, Sgt. Maj. Steve Boatwright of the 115th Signal Battalion, a group composed of men from small towns throughout northwest Alabama, wrote an email to the city of Dothan expressing his thanks for the CDs and making an unusual request.

"I'm a little embarrassed to ask," Boatwright wrote, "but is there any way that I could get some of the world-famous Alabama peanuts for my soldiers?"

Dothan Mayor Chester Sowell forwarded Boatwright's request to the Alabama Peanut Producers Association (APPA), and they donated more than 2,000 half-ounce peanut packets, which were shipped to Iraq.

"Peanuts are just so good to eat, and they are a source of quick energy as well," said Boatwright, who is an avid gardener and even is growing some vegetables in a small plot in Iraq. "Peanuts are something that everybody seems to like, and good things do come in small packages," he added. "I have had some of my soldiers say the peanuts bring back memories of Little League baseball games or Friday night high school football."

Teresa Wilson, information specialist for the APPA, said while it is not out of the ordinary to receive requests for peanuts from people who want to use them for promotional purposes, it was unusual to hear from soldiers. "This is kind of a different thing," she said, "...but we knew all of the troops would appreciate a taste of Alabama peanuts."

The Dothan area has long been known for its peanuts, and approximately 65 percent of the peanuts produced in the United States are grown within a 100-mile radius of the southeast Alabama city. Not only does the area produce tons of the nutritious and versatile nut, but Dothan peanuts also are famous for their quality and taste. "We consider ourselves the 'Peanut Capital of the World.'" Sowell said. "We've got the best peanuts in the world, so it just makes sense [that soldiers would ask for peanuts]."

Since receiving the peanuts, Boatwright and his soldiers have been sharing their packets with other troops, and the word about Alabama peanuts has spread. Now, troops from northern states are asking for their own peanut packages, said Wilson.

"We just didn't realize how far they'd go," she said. "They could have asked for anything, but we were real proud that they asked for Alabama peanuts."

The soldiers aren't the only ones benefiting from the connection between Dothan and Iraq. Wilson and others at the APPA have enjoyed forming a bond with Boatwright as they continue to receive emails regularly from him. "It's kind of nice to keep in touch with someone over there and to let him know that our thoughts and prayers are with them," Wilson said.

APPA is a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation.


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