Fargo, N.D. --
In 2002, Tech. Sgt. Scott Kaufman was part of a group of six firemen from the North Dakota Air National Guard who deployed to Afghanistan for six months. He took part in a critical mission to prepare the air base there for flying operations. Since then, many of these firefighters have deployed more than three times to various locations such as Iraq, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Kaufman has deployed five times.
Although the actions of these Airmen are heroic, it's not unique to the members of the North Dakota Air National Guard. There are hundreds of stories like these, of Airmen volunteering to leave their families multiple times to serve their country.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,800 Airmen have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This year, on the weekend of the anniversary of Sept. 11, the Happy Hooligans will honor many of these brave men and women during their first-ever "Hometown Heroes Salute" that will take place on Sept. 11 in Fargo and Sept. 12 in Minot.
"Every day, we have Airmen serving abroad, away from their loved ones, protecting our country, and because they often deploy in small numbers, we want to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve for their service," Gov. John Hoeven said.
"The Hometown Heroes Salute is a great opportunity to honor these men and women and their families, and thank them for serving our state and nation."
In addition to Hoeven, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. adjutant general, and Col. Rick Gibney, 119th Wing commander, will speak at the Fargo ceremony on Sept. 11, which will be dedicated to honoring more than 300 North Dakota Airmen and their families. Following the ceremony, the 119th Wing will celebrate Family Day at the base.
The following day, on Sept. 12, 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.
"These Hometown Heroes Salute ceremonies are happening in conjunction with 'Family Day' events in Fargo and in Minot. This is fitting because not only are we honoring our Airmen who have deployed, but we are also taking the time to thank the families who support these Airmen. Without that strong support of the families, the Airmen could not effectively do their mission. Every Airman who is courageous enough to deploy and serve their country deserves to be recognized for their sacrifices," Sprynczynatyk said.
The Airmen who are being recognized at the events will receive an award for serving more than 30 consecutive days away from home station between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2008.
"This ceremony is essentially a 'catch up' ceremony to honor all of our Airmen who deployed from 9/11 through 2008. Next year, we plan to honor all the Airmen who have deployed from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010, and from then on we will make this a yearly event to honor our Airman who have deployed for that particular year," Chief Master Sgt. Paula Johnson, state command chief and event organizer said.
Media is invited to these events.
The Fargo Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m.; following the ceremony, Family Day events will begin. Please meet Penny Ripperger at the front gate of the North Dakota Air National Guard at 8 a.m. to be escorted to the ceremony on Sept. 11.
If media have any special requests, such as Airmen interviews and live television or radio feeds, please call Ripperger at 701-451-2194 to make arrangements prior to the ceremony.
The 219th Security Forces Squadron 'Family Day' Picnic will begin at noon Sept. 12 at Bud Ebert Park on Minot AFB. The Hometown Heroes Salute awards will be distributed to 13 Airmen around 1 p.m. during the picnic.
Media, please contact Penny Ripperger at 701-451-2194 to arrange a media escort on base.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 150 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 52 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that's more than four times the national average.