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Happy Hooligans honored at Hometown Heroes Salute Ceremony

Fargo, N.D. -- Today the Happy Hooligans honored more than 250 Airmen during a Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony that took place at the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard.

Gov. John Hoeven, Maj.Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. adjutant general, Col. Rick Gibney, 119th Wing commander and Col. Robert Becklund, former 119th Wing commander spoke to about 500 Airmen and family members during the ceremony.

"Let's hear it for the finest Air Guard in the United States," Hoeven said during his opening remarks inciting cheers in the audience.

"Today we come together to honor, recognize and congratulate all of you who are here today. I want to thank you as Airmen...and thank your families for all that you have done, not only for your service on 9-11, but for your service every day since," Hoeven added.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,800 Airmen have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. During the ceremony, Airmen who have deployed on contingency orders for 30 consecutive days or more away from home station from Sept 11, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2008 were recognized as they walked across a stage to shake hands with Hoeven and North Dakota National Guard leadership.

Following the ceremony, Airmen and family members celebrated 'Family Day' at the base.

"It is fitting that the Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony is taking place on 'Family Day' because this is a time to honor our families in addition to the Airmen who have deployed. Families are instrumental to the success of our Airmen. We want our Airmen to fight the fight and focus on their mission and they can't do that without the strong support of their families back home," Sprynczynatyk said.

The Hometown Heroes Salute Ceremony was a catch up ceremony to honor all Airmen who have deployed from Sept. 11, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2008. Next year, the 119th Wing will honor Airmen who have deployed from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2010 and from then on the ceremony will be a yearly event to honor Airmen who have deployed for that current year.

Tomorrow, the Happy Hooligans will honor their Guardsmen from the Minot-based 219th Security Forces Squadron at Bud Ebert Park, Minot Air Force Base. This event will be more informal, taking place during a Family Day picnic at the base where 13 Airmen will be recognized during the event.

For more information about this news release, contact Capt. Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing public affairs officer at 701-451-2194.

High-resolution photos of today's event are available on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos.ndguard.
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