The Year of the NCO was a prominent theme during the Armed Forces Celebration Week Salute Dinner on June 17 at the Von Braun Center.

Recognized for their heroism, courage, unselfishness and drive to protect America, and defend its ideas and citizens, non-commissioned officers exhibit qualities that all Soldiers aspire to have, said Mike Howell, outgoing president of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.

During the dinner, Redstone Arsenal's 2009 NCO of the Year - Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Patterson of the 832nd Ordnance Battalion - and 2009 Soldier of the Year - Spc. Randal Rhodes of the Army Medical Activity - were recognized. So, too, were NCOs, Soldiers, officers and veterans in the audience, both active and retired.

Though Armed Forces Celebration Week is always a big event for the community, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said showing appreciation to the military is not just a one-week event.

"We respect and honor our armed forces all year round," he said.

In closing the evening's program, Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal, thanked community and congressional leaders and AUSA members for their support. But his biggest thanks went to the leaders of the local AUSA chapter.

"This is the best chapter for the last five years because of the leadership that makes it happen," Myles said, garnering a round of applause.

The message Myles wanted to leave with the AUSA audience was that every American should support the Soldiers who sacrifice much for their country.

"Don't worry about the bottom line," he said. "Do what's right for the Soldiers.

"We still have work to do to support Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines all around the world. Keep the families in your thoughts and prayers. This is the best Army that has ever existed on the face of the earth."

Once again, Boeing was the presenting sponsor for the Salute Dinner.

"These events bring tears to your eyes," said retired Lt. Gen. Tony Jones, now vice president of Boeing's Huntsville Business Operations.

"They give you a sense of pride. They give you a sense of feeling that we should be proud to be an American."

Jones said the Army remains strong because of its Soldiers and its leadership, and because of the bond between military families and the communities where they live.