Soldiers from the 35th Engineer Brigade were honored for their service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in a ceremony Saturday at the National Guard Armory in Cape Girardeau. About 140 soldiers, civilians and dignitaries attended.
"In Missouri, Freedom Salute ceremonies will be held throughout the state over the coming months as units return from deployment," said Brig. Gen. Michael Pace, joint force commander of the Missouri Army National Guard.
Honorees received an encased American flag, a commemorative coin, a defender of freedom appreciation certificate and lapel insignia. Soldiers' spouses received lapel insignia and were pinned during the ceremony. Soldiers' children were also recognized at the ceremony with "footlocker kits" containing games, trading cards and a comic book.
Maranda Evans of Benton, Mo., attended the ceremony in support of her father-in-law, Mike Evans, who returned from deployment to Fort Leonard Wood in May.
"It's the first ceremony I've ever been to, and it kind of brought a tear to my eye," she said. "It's good to see them getting the appreciation they deserve."
Evans' wife, Gloria, was pinned by her husband and given the commemorative coin in appreciation of her support as a military wife. Even though he's back now, there is a possibility he could be deployed to Iraq.
"He's just glad that I support him no matter what he does," she said.
Brig. Gen. Edmund T. Beckette, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, was the guest speaker. He asked that families be patient during the adjustment to civilian life.
A special retirement tribute was made to King E. Sidwell of Sikeston, Mo., for exceptional service and outstanding leadership after serving 32 years. His wife, Cindy, was also recognized with a gift of flowers.
Beckette described Sidwell as an exemplary figure and also recognized his family as an outstanding Guard family.
Sidwell, apparently emotional, said that it was not an individual award he received but one he was eligible for because of soldiers like those present.
"You are the heroes of our society," he said. "For little pay and a lot of dedication you give up your families for the price of freedom and the freedom others would like to have. I can't say enough about you."
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