NEW YORK -- Members of the New York Army National Guard received high praise from New York State Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and the WTC Tribute Center May 18 as part of the center's Armed Forces Day recognitions of New York's military response at ground zero after the terror attacks of 9/11.

"The New York National Guard has served our state and nation honorably and selflessly throughout its history," Lieutenant Governor Duffy said. "The Guard's response to 9/11 demonstrated the dedication, strength and courage of the men and women who serve our state; service that was continued in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"National Guard troops also bravely performed water rescues and large scale evacuations of residents during last year's floods, helping residents across New York rebuild their towns, villages and lives," Duffy said. "The people of New York State will forever be grateful and honored by their service."

Lee Ielpi, Board President of the Tribute Center is a retired fireman of the FDNY who lost his son, Jonathan Ielpi, also an FDNY firefighter, during the rescue efforts of 9/11.

"In honor of Armed Forces Day we are delighted to recognize the New York National Guard for their continuous service and immediate response after 9/11 to protect and serve New York State," Ielpi said.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 triggered an unprecedented mobilization of New York National Guard forces that continues to this date, Ielpi said.

"When I arrived at the Trade Center, you know what I saw? You. It was you, the National Guard," Ielpi said. Working side by side with first responders, the Guard helped in rescue and recovery and brought a calming presence to New York and the nation, he said.
Major General Steven N. Wickstrom, commander of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, accepted a plaque that included a steel remnant of the World Trade Center from Ielpi and Jennifer Adams, Chief Executive of the Tribute Center in recognition of the dedication of the New York National Guard.

Wickstrom leads a force of more than 3,500 New York National Guard Soldiers and oversees a wider division force aligned for training that includes more than 14,000 troops assigned to combat brigades in New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 1,500 New York National Guard troops reported for duty. Troops helped to secure the area at ground zero and across lower Manhattan, rushed in supplies and assisted with the rescue and recovery.

The 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters, following the initial response of division troops and elements of the New York National Guard's 53rd Troop Command, led the response and recovery efforts in lower Manhattan as Joint Task Force 42, providing security, logistics, transportation and administration support to the wider New York City Office of Emergency Management coordinated response.

"Never in our nation's history has a National Guard force done as much for so long for homeland and national defense," Adams said.

September 11th was just the beginning. The total of New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen called up for federal duty, for either Iraq or Afghanistan, since then has passed the 10,000 mark last January.

"Since 2006, when I returned from Iraq and was first assigned to the 42nd Division one of the things I have most enjoyed is asking New York Guardsmen to tell me the story of their service after we were attacked on 9/11 - where they served, what their duties were, what sticks out in their memory," Wickstrom said.

"There is a familiar theme to the story. Most threw their gear in a duffle bag, said a hurried goodbye to their families and reported to their armories. Many reported with no formal orders to do so, and none knew how long it would last. Over the days that followed these Guardsmen in New York and across America helped return a sense of security to airports and train stations and a sense of calm to America's streets. It was the beginning of an extraordinary change in the National Guard. Although Guardsmen were poorly equipped and had been under-resourced for years, they possessed two things that remained undiminished. The first was their love for their country. The second was a dedication to serve her."

Following the presentation, National Guard Soldiers and their families toured the 9/11 Tribute Center and received passes to visit the 9/11 Memorial.

The 9/11 Tribute Center is located at 120 Liberty Street along the south side of the World Trade Center site. The center was created by the September 11th Families' Association to share the personal stories of victims, survivors, rescue and recovery workers, volunteers, and residents of Lower Manhattan.

By engaging visitors in the authentic experiences of those most affected by the events of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001, the center's five galleries and its walking tour program convey the efforts of those who responded to the tragedy and the steps taken towards working for a more peaceful world by many of those impacted by the events.