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Soldiers and their families are honored

DEMOPOLIS – Most people know the sacrifices made and hard work put forth by soldiers in the National Guard, but few realize the sacrifices made and hard work put forth by the families left behind to carry on in their loved ones absence.

The Army National Guard recently hosted a statewide Freedom Salute Campaign to honor not only those soldiers who have volunteered their time and energy to defend our state and country, but to honor the families – mothers and fathers, spouses and children – who let their loved ones go with the knowledge they might not make it home.

“We would be remiss today if we did not thank these families for their prayers, for being there and being strong while these soldiers were gone and for welcoming them back with open arms when they came home,” U.S. Congressman Artur Davis said.

Group Commander Jimmy Sattler agreed that a soldier’s family is probably the most important aspect of that soldier’s life.

“You can’t do your job without family,” he said. “Families, I want to commend you because it’s hard to let your family member go do their job.”

The men also commended the nearly 100 soldiers gathered to be honored for their service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. Second Lt. Jeffery Sayne explained that Operation Iraqi Freedom took place in Iraq, while Enduring Freedom soldiers went to Afghanistan and those serving in Operation Noble Eagle stayed stateside.

Sattler said the Alabama National Guard has sent more than nearly any other state in America with 12,000 army guard and 8,000 air guard soldiers reporting for duty.

“Most people are not aware of the outstanding effort Alabama has put into these operations,” he said. “Some states have sent less than 1,000 units.”

Davis said there was no way to adequately thank those men and women for all they have done for this country, but said this Freedom Salute Campaign was a good start.

“(National Guard soldiers) have been tested as no National Guard has been tested in this country before,” he said. “Yet here they are sitting proudly and honored today. There is nothing we can say to thank them for answering the call to defent our nation, and there is nothing we can say to thank their families for staying behind and letting them answer that call.”

Unfortunately, he said, many families were not able to welcome their loved ones home or honor them with such a celebration.

“Nine hundred and twenty three of their colleagues will not be at any celebration. Nine hundred and twenty three of their colleagues did not make it back,” Davis said. “There are eight Alabama soldiers who did not make it back, and I hope there is not a day that passes that we do not pray for those families who will not be able to welcome their loved ones back.

“May our thoughts be with them today as we celebrate these men and women and know that America is reaching up (to God) and not looking down,” he said.

He said he hopes the future National Guard soldiers look to their predecessors for guidance on how to be a successful soldier.

“We should always pray and believe that our men and women are as strongand courageous as those gathered in this Demopolis Civic Center here today.”