During times when U.S. troops are deployed to fight overseas, the sacrifice of the family and friends is often overlooked.
Sunday was a day to recognize that sacrifice, as more than 350 members of the 134th Refueling Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard and their family and friends were recognized at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base during “Hometown Heroes” ceremonies.
Col. Randy Gratz of the Tennessee-based branch of the Air National Guard said the day is a small but significant way of showing the military’s gratitude for the members’ service.
“The event today is not just about honoring the members of the 134th Air Refueling Wing,” he said. “It’s also about honoring the families and the special people in the members’ lives. This is a small token of appreciation for the American citizen and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Staff Sgt. Roxane Pilgrim said recognizing the members and their families also goes a long way in boosting the unit’s moral.
“It’s important because we have the opportunity to honor and appreciate everybody that has come before us,” she said. “It’s a good way to motivate everybody, to show that what we do is appreciated. It’s all really encouraging.”
Col. Tim Dearing, the unit’s commanding officer, made sure family members and friends present knew what their support means to every member of the unit.
“There is no doubt in my mind that without your support, the members wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Dearing then presented each member with a token of appreciation: a signed letter of appreciation framed in rosewood from Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, the Tennessee Air Guard’s command chief.
Family members and friends also received gifts. Members’ spouses or significant others received a rosewood pen and pencil set, and children received a set of dog tags. The members were also given a medallion to present to a “special someone” in their lives.
Other servicemen were also honored in the region Sunday morning. About 320 soldiers from National Guard units in Maryville, Pigeon Forge, Newport, Sweetwater and Tazewell were honored at West High School, and around 540 members were honored in various parts of Tennessee.