173rd marks Freedom Team Salute milestone
October 7, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- In a process that lasted several days in three military communities in two countries, the first brigade-level Freedom Team Salute commendation officially came to a close when hundreds of Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne) recognized their spouses in a ceremony at Finney Fitness Center here Sept. 24.
The ceremony followed earlier ceremonies in Vicenza, Italy, home of the 173rd Infantry Brigade (Airborne) and Bamberg, Germany, which, like Schweinfurt, houses Sky Soldiers from the 173rd.
"This is an unprecedented ceremony for the Army," said Col. (Ret.) Richard Breen, the Freedom Team Salute European ambassador who was chief of the Army Community Relations and Outreach Division when the program was created in May 2005. Breen presented the idea for a brigade-level recognition to Lisa Preysler, wife of then-commander of the 173rd Brigade (Airborne) Col. Charles Preysler.
"The program was designed specifically to recognize individual Soldiers' personal support system and to recognize those key individuals who are instrumental in the success of the Soldier and the Army family," Breen said to the Airborne Cav Soldiers and families packing the center for the ceremony.
The brigade, which recently completed a 15-month tour in Afghanistan, submitted a mass nomination for Freedom Team Salute commendation packets for approximately 1,600 spouses.
"We, as a brigade, took it upon ourselves to nominate every single spouse in the brigade and to recognize the sacrifices that they went through during the deployment," Lisa Preysler said.
"I think all the Soldiers should nominate someone who is dear to them. I think it's the best thing in the world. I don't think the rest of the world understands the sacrifices that military spouses make on a daily basis," she said.
Freedom Team Salute is a program for the entire Army Family, Breen said, before inviting single Soldiers to nominate someone in their support system - a parent, a friend, a veteran.
At the ceremony here, Soldiers, on cue, presented their spouses with Freedom Team Salute commendation packets, which included a certificate signed by the The Honorable Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George. W. Casey, a lapel pin and an Army decal.
"It's nice. It's the first time I felt that the Army recognized the family behind the Soldier," said Hannah Fitz Gerald, after opening the packet she received from her husband, Maj. Darren Fitz Gerald.
"It wraps everything up and says thank you for 15 months of service," she said.
To nominate someone for a Freedom Team Salute commendation packet, log on to http://www.freedomteamsalute.com/ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org