Task Force Green Mountain soldiers honored

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(Host) Vermont’s Army National Guard paid public tribute this weekend to the nearly 600 men and women who served over a year in Kuwait as members of Task Force Green Mountain.

Those soldiers living in the northern part of the state were honored Saturday at Norwich University.

VPR’s Nina Keck attended yesterday’s ceremony in Castleton, which honored soldiers from the southern part of the state.

(Keck) They arrived back in Vermont just before Christmas. Guard officials say they decided not to hold a formal ceremony sooner, to give the soldiers more time to reunite with their families and communities. So three months after returning from Kuwait, nearly 250 citizen soldiers stood at attention in Castleton State College’s gymnasium yesterday to receive a somewhat delayed public thank you.

Major General Martha Rainville, Vermont’s Adjutant General thanked the men of women of Task Force Green Mountain on behalf of Governor Douglas. She said he’d planned to be at the ceremony, but was called away. She said they were both grateful for the soldiers’ dedication.

(Rainville) “You went, you answered your country’s call, you took up arms and you served. You served extremely well.”

(Keck) Rainville praised the guard’s work in Kuwait and the security they provided to the American troops moving through the region.

(Rainville) “You were a critical piece in our entire effort. . . . . because you followed through on your commitments because you faced all that you were challenged with, there with the grace and dignity and the dedication of a Green Mountain Boy and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that service and the way you performed that service.”

(Keck) Rainville also praised the dedication of the families who stayed behind. After several short speeches, each member of Task Force Green Mountain paraded up to the podium to receive the Freedom Salute Award for their participation in the mission. After the ceremonies ended, Brandon resident Matthew Bandy, dressed in his desert camoflage, stood with his wife Anne.

(Bandy) “I think the ceremony today was a closing ceremony. It provided a lot of closure for a lot of families and it was the end of one more deployment. And now we’re just waiting for one more group to come home til we can say we have all our Vermonters back.”

(Keck) Bandy said it means a lot as a soldier to have the community support.

Bandy) “I think it was a great opportunity for not only the families but for the communities to say welcome home and thank you for what you did. I think that was a lot of what today was about.”

(Keck) Bandy’s wife, Anne looked around at the crowded gymnasium – filled with soldiers and their families. She said this ceremony reminded her a lot of the emotion-filled send off they held for the troops back in November 2004. That also provided a very public way to thank the troops. She laughed and said this time at least, nobody’s crying.

For Vermont public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Castleton.

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