ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - For most Americans July 21 is just another day in the middle of summer, but for Americans on the US territory of Guam it is the island-wide holiday called "Liberation Day."
This holiday is held in recognition of the day that the Battle of Guam began, 71 years ago, to free the island from the oppressive Imperial Japanese occupation during World War II. This year's holiday held extra meaning for the Soldiers of Task Force Talon, 94th Army air and Missile Defense Command, since it was the first time the unit participated in Liberation Day activities since deploying to Guam over two years ago.
Task Force Talon is the U.S .Army unit that is tasked with defending the skies over Guam from any ballistic missile attack with the first forward deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. Due to the task force's community outreach efforts it was invited to march in the island's annual Liberation Day Parade.
"It was a real honor to be part of such an event with such tradition and meaning to the people here on Guam," said Capt. Daniel Lessard, commander, Company C, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, whose unit is in charge of site security for the task force.
Soldiers from the task force proudly marched through Guam's capital city of Hagatna while being cheered by the thousands of people who lined the street to watch the parade.
"The enthusiasm showed by the people of Guam as we marched along the parade route was tremendous," said Capt. Sheiloh Carlos, commander, Battery D, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th ADA Brigade.
For one TF Talon Soldier, marching in the parade took on a more personal significance.
"As a kid growing up on Guam I used to watch this parade," said Master Sgt. Ronald Quinata, TF Talon operations sergeant major. "Which has made marching in it now as a member of Task Force Talon something I will never forget."
Quinata is a native Chamorro and is also the Soldier who organized the task force's participation in the parade.
The parade also had special historical significance for the air defense artillery Soldiers in TF Talon, who are the first active duty air defenders to deploy to Guam since members of the US Army's 7th Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion landed on Agat Beach during the Battle of Guam in 1944.
"It is a great feeling to know that we are continuing the mission of defending the skies over Guam started by air defenders 71 years ago," said TF Talon commander, Lt. Col. Jefferey Slown. "Marching in the Liberation Day Parade gives us an opportunity to honor their service along with all the other veterans who fought in the Battle of Guam."
The parade ended at the Governor's Complex, completing the task force's first ever march in the Guam Liberation Day Parade. Based on the positive feedback from the Soldiers and the cheers from the crowd, TF Talon looks forward to being part of this annual Guam tradition for many more years to come.