MADISON, Wis. --
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 80,000 Air National Guard Airmen have deployed in support of military operations according to Defense Department data. Today, more than 350 Airmen and their families from the 115th Fighter Wing here were honored.
As part of the Air National Guard Hometown Heroes Salute recognition program, the 115th FW hosted a first-ever ceremony to celebrate and honor the wing's Airmen, families and those special supporters who have significantly contributed to supporting our Airmen and their mission.
"This is something we need to do to recognize the outstanding service that people put forward," said Brig. Gen. John McCoy, Wisconsin National Guard assistant adjutant general for air. "We have asked people to deploy, in some cases multiple times since Sept.11, 2001 and this is just a small recognition for the member and their families."
The program, managed by the National Guard Bureau, cooperates with the Guard in all 50 states and recognizes Airmen who deployed for more than 30 consecutive days for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and all other contingency operations.
Each Airman honored received a cherry wood encased letter of appreciation signed by former Air Guard director, Gen. Craig. R. McKinley, now chief of the National Guard Bureau, and the Air Guard's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, enclosed with a commemorative coin.
"While there are many who say that they did not deploy for the award, they say they did it because their nation asked them, however, it is good to take some time, step back and recognize people," said General McCoy.
Each family member, whether they attended the ceremony or not, were also presented with tokens of support for their Airman. Each child received a set of commemorative dog tags and each spouse or significant other were presented an engraved rosewood pen and pencil set.
"We always say that we recruit the Airman and retain the family," said Kim Sandleback, family program coordinator with the 115th FW. "Our Airman could not deploy without the incredible support of their families."
Each Airman could also nominate a center of influence, who, in many cases, has provided extraordinary support when they deploy. Those nominees were presented with a Hometown Heroes Salute medallion.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, presided over the event and Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin National Guard adjutant general, along with General McCoy, greeted each Airman and many family members as they accepted their awards.