MILL HALL - After one year deployment to the Middle East, soldiers from the 728th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and their families were honored Saturday afternoon at a ceremony held at Central Mountain High School's auditorium.
More than 75 Pennsylvania Army National Guard battalion members who arrived home in August took part in what the Guard calls the Freedom Salute Campaign, which acknowledges soldiers and those that have supported them during recent military operations.
The Lock Haven-based detachment of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 213th Regional Support Group served in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan while providing logistical support for troops, supply management and vehicle transportation throughout Middle Eastern countries.
Guest speaker Col. Mark D. McCormack, commander of the 213th Regional Support Group said Saturday's event wasn't about high-ranking officers making speeches or photo ops.
"It's about soldiers being recognized for their outstanding service," he said.
For some soldiers, the recent deployment in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom, was their third overseas mission.
Lt. Col. Lawrence Dugan, 728th battalion commander, said his soldiers were backed by the love and support of their families back home while they were in the desert.
"We could not have achieved what we did without the unwavering support of families," said Dugan.
McCormack related a quote from Elmer Davis, a journalist who was appointed director of the U.S. Office of War Information during World War II.
"This nation will remain a land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave," he said.
"That is why we are here to thank you for your sacrifice. Today we can say, 'mission accomplished'" McCormack said.
Special recognition was given to the family of Master Sgt. Sean Thomas and the foundation named after the fallen Pennsylvania National Guardsman from Hughesville, who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007.
The foundation provided hundreds of gift cards for soldiers to use on base while they were stationed in Kuwait, said Kelly Gillis, Thomas' sister.
Members of the 728th battalion presented the family with a framed patriotic mosaic print.