KYIV, Ukraine -- Oklahoma National Guards Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were the first U.S. Army Soldiers to march alongside Ukrainian and nine other nations in Ukraine's capital city, Aug. 24, to celebrate Ukrainian independence.

Independence Day is the main state and public holiday in Ukraine, celebrated each year on Aug. 24 to commemorate the country's Declaration of Independence of 1991.

For the first time ever, 24 U.S. Soldiers plus a color guard, marched in the parade. In addition, the U.S. Air Forces Europe Band, which will be on tour in Ukraine Aug. 19-26, conducted an evening performance to observe the holiday. Senior U.S. military leaders to include Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, attended the festivities.

On top of being among the first American Soldiers to march in the Ukrainian Independence Day parade, six of the 45th IBCT Soldiers were honored by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine for their actions in July when they rushed into a burning building in L'viv, Ukraine earlier this year. Recognized were Sgt. Nelson Deese, Spcs. Vincent Humerickhouse, Kellar Jackson and Aaron Moore, Sgt. Matthew Odom and Pfc. Kevin Polk.

The 45th IBCT Soldiers are currently deployed to Ukraine in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, an international coalition dedicated to building the training capacity of the Ukrainian Army. The U.S. will continue training and advising Ukrainian security forces until 2020, and JMTG-U will oversee defensive and security training for up to five battalions of Ministry of Defense forces per year.

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