Hometown Heroes recognize Airmen, families for service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily Hoferitza
  • 151st ARW/PA
Members of the 151st Air Refueling Wing, Logistics Readiness Squadron, and Communications Flight, and the 101st Information Operations Flight gathered at the Salt Lake Art Center March 5 to recognize Airmen and their families during the Hometown Heroes Salute Awards Ceremony.

The program was organized to recognize Airmen who have been deployed for 30 days or more since 9/11, said Major Andrea Vanleeuwen, 151st LRS operations officer.

In his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. David M. Hooper, the Assistant Adjutant General for Air, said that the Hometown Heroes program gives the senior leadership and community leaders the opportunity to recognize those who have served.

"It's an opportunity to recognize the individual, but just as important, is the opportunity to recognize families," he said. "We know that this has been a long road for them."

Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet, the Adjutant General, also addressed Guardsmen at the event.

"I'm so proud of what you've done, and what you do every day to defend our families, and to defend us," he said.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert also attended the event to give his thanks to the Air Guardsmen personally.

"You are added value Airmen," said Gov. Herbert. "The fact that you have jobs in civilian life, that you have skills that you bring, not only with your military training but the skills you have in civilian life, brings an added value to your military service. You're able to bring those different skill sets to your assignment, which makes the National Guard such a valuable service and a valued component to our military."

Master Sgt. John Crow, 151st ARW grounds safety manager, appreciated the governor's attendance at the event.

"I was very surprised and honored to be in his presence," he said. "It was incredible to have him with us."

Approximately 80 Airmen and their families were recognized. Each Airman was awarded with a framed letter of appreciation with a Hometown Heroes Salute coin inscribed with the Airman's name. The Airman's spouse or significant other received a rosewood pen and pencil set, and each of the Airman's children received a set of dog tags with the Hometown Heroes Salute logo inscribed. Members were also given a Center of Influence medallion which they were to present to someone who they feel supported them and went the extra mile for their family during their absence.

Tech. Sgt. Vallaree Rudd, 151st Equal Employment Office, said the event was a surprise to her. "It lets the Airmen know they haven't been forgotten, even after their deployments."

In addition to the awards, Tom McOmie, a member of the Utah Pipe Band, played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Lt. Col. Kevin Nuccitelli, commander of the 101st IOF, said "This is an awesome event. It's a great tool to recognize not just the servicemember, but the family."

"We cannot, and we will not forget the service that you render," said Gov. Herbert. "We can't say 'thank you' enough."

The Utah Air National Guard has hosted several Hometown Heroes Salute ceremonies over the past few months recognizing more than 400 Airmen and families for their service.