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Wing Celebrates Airmen's Return Home

The 101st Army Band of the Colorado National Guard performs for the crowd at the Colorado Air National Guard's Welcome Home Ceremony on August 16th.

The 101st Army Band of the Colorado National Guard performs for the crowd at the Colorado Air National Guard's Welcome Home Ceremony on August 16th.

Children play under a bright parachute at the Aurora Sports Complex on August 16, 2009.  The Welcome Home Picnic celebrated the return of more then 250 Airmen from Iraq.

Children play under a bright parachute at the Aurora Sports Complex on August 16, 2009. The Welcome Home Picnic celebrated the return of more then 250 Airmen from Iraq.

Flags fly on a breezy but warm summer day during the Colorado Air National Guard's Welcome Home Ceremony on the 16th of August, 2009.

Flags fly on a breezy but warm summer day during the Colorado Air National Guard's Welcome Home Ceremony on the 16th of August, 2009.

Children of 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guardsmen play rock band at the Welcome Home picnic on August 16, 2009.  More than 3000 wing members, employers and community supporters celebrated the return of more than 250 Airmen from Iraq.

Children of 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guardsmen play rock band at the Welcome Home picnic on August 16, 2009. More than 3000 wing members, employers and community supporters celebrated the return of more than 250 Airmen from Iraq.

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- On Aug 16, approximately 1,500 Colorado Air National Guardsmen gathered to celebrate the return of more than 250 Airmen from Iraq.

State and local elected officials, family members, friends, as well as employers of the deployed Airmen attended the picnic at the Aurora Sports Complex.

"The 140th Wing absolutely would not have been able to have our welcome home family day without the support of our community. I cannot say enough good things about the various organizations that worked to make this happen. The USO, Salvation Army, Red Cross as well as various other organizations were always there and ready to do anything it took to pull this off," said Vicky Jennings, 140th Wing Family Program assistant.

"It was an honor and it felt really good to see so many supporters in our community there," said Major Hope Griggs, 140th Wing executive officer.

According to Jennings, the biggest hit of the day was the children's medal presentation. The formal presentation took place with hundreds of Guardsmen in attendance as Brig. Gen Trulan Eyre, 140th Wing commander read the following:

My Patriot Child
I honor you today
You were brave and strong
while I was serving far away.

The road has been long
With many struggles to beat
But you proudly supported me
And the uniform I wear.

A warrior child
you did not choose to be
Yet each day you made sacrifices
to keep this country free.

You stood tall
For the red, white, and blue
You are MY HERO
And I am very proud of you.

The children of 140th Wing Guardsmen were then presented the medals that were pinned proudly on by their parents.

"Leading up to the picnic, my wife and I were excited about a day to be together and enjoy being out of uniform, away from the military setting. It turned out to be so great! The informal setting was really cool and I was able to spend time and interact with my coworkers on a personal basis. It was so much better for the kids, too. I would much rather spend a day with my family, eating hot dogs and watching my kids play than the formal welcome back ceremonies you sometimes see," said Senior Master Sgt. Lawrence Aragon, 140th Wing Airfield Management noncommissioned officer in charge. 

The Colorado Guardsmen who deployed represent nearly every unit within the 140th Wing, from medical personnel to mechanics who kept F-16s flying, as well as pilots and support personnel.

For many of these Airmen, this was their fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.

While deployed, these Colorado Citizen-Airmen worked to employ airpower for more than 90 days in support of coalition ground forces.

"Our own Colorado Air National Guardsmen have done a wonderful job. Their efforts have been critical in supporting the efforts of coalition ground forces throughout Iraq," said Eyre. "And it is important to recognize the support of families and employers who have also made sacrifices while their Airmen have been away."