New York National Guard Soldiers and families lauded in Freedom Salute
April 29, 2013
NEW YORK -- More than 130 New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment celebrated their return from deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain during a Freedom Salute Ceremony April 28 in Queens, N.Y.
The ceremony, held 90 days after Soldiers returned to their homes, honored both returning Soldiers and the families, and employers friends who supported them.
"Today is the culmination of a long journey," Lt. Col. Michael Hoblin, commander of the 1-258th, told the gather Soldiers. "None of you did it alone."
The Freedom Salute Campaign, which began in almost ten years ago, is a wellness and retention program that has recognized more than 360,000 troops and supporters.
The Soldiers, after watching a USO song and dance routine, each received awards depending on the number of deployments they have done.
The six veterans of three or more deployments received a brass plaque with a commemorative coin embedded within.
The 26 veterans of two deployments received a ring, with their spouse receiving a mantle clock.
Finally, the Soldiers who completed their first deployment received an American flag in a wood display case, a certificate, a medallion and commemorative coins.
Soldiers sat in the middle section of Little Theater at St. John's University as they waited for their names to be called, while friends and family sat in the seats on wing of the theater.
Some Soldiers held their children near them as they sat with their peers: Bronx resident Sgt. Rudolph De Jesus and his daughter Arianna, Brentwood resident Spc. Frankie Aguilar and his daughter Jadalyse. The two 1-69th Soldiers' daughters wore brightly colored clothes that stood out among the crowd of green camouflage.
The ceremony ended with a lunch of donuts and sandwiches, with Soldiers meeting each other again after the deployment and meeting each other's families.
Family like Arianna and Jadalyse were part of the celebrations too.
"Make no mistake," Brig. Gen. Steven Ferrari, deputy commander 42nd Infantry Division, said. "The Soldiers here today could not do it so successfully without the support of their families."