BANGOR, Maine — MAINEiacs who deployed to some of the most dangerous places in the world during 2009 — Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait — and to dozens of other military locations around the world were honored Sunday for their service.
The Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing honored around 350 of its airmen and women during a Hometown Heroes ceremony that also recognized family members and loved ones left behind, employers and the communities that supported them.
“You are in the presence today of men and women in the finest air refueling wing in the Air Force,” Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, said to Gov. Paul LePage, his wife, Ann, and others who sat onstage facing the weekend warriors and their families. “I didn’t say the finest air refueling wing in the National Guard, I said the finest air refueling wing in the Air Force.”
After the applause ended, he added, they’re “open for business 24-7. 365.”
Libby went on to thank the soldiers, saying they are all changed by their time away from home because they now understand the true meaning of service to county and of the brotherhood of being an airman or woman.
“That brotherhood is perhaps the greatest expression of love,” he said.
He ended his time at the podium by thanking the governor and Ann LePage, who has made supporting the military her mission as the state’s first lady, for their tireless efforts in support of the military in Maine.
Members of the 101st Air Refueling Wing who served for at least 30 days away from home were honored during the Hometown Heroes salute campaign on Sunday, some of whom served in at different locations around the country.
“Whether your deployment was in Baghdad or Bangor, your service is part of a very long history of Maine citizens who fight for freedom,” Governor LePage told the men and women. “You made the defense of our nation your person responsibility and we owe you a debt.”
One local airman, Master Sgt. Mark Doughty of Brewer, who is an in-flight air refueling technician, said he and his fellow soldiers go where they are needed.
“We’re on the road all the time,” he said. “In the last month I was in Alaska, Charlotte [North Carolina], California, Hawaii, Key West, Texas, Indiana.
“We do a multifaceted mission to help out wherever needed,” he said.
Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted leader for the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C., did a little research into citizen soldiers in Maine dating back to Gen. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Infantry. She told the 900 or so gathered at the ceremony that “the Maine National Guard has never let their county down.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud also took the podium to thank the airmen and women and World War II veteran Galen Cole, a veterans advocate and founder of the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor, gave the soldiers walking sticks during the ceremony. He started giving out the walking sticks years ago as a way to connect soldiers.
When it was time for Doughty to take the stage to shake the hand of the governor and other dignitaries, his wife, Tammie, and his two children Candace and Charles, were mentioned and his father, Larry Doughty, was named as his biggest supporter.
“Mark is a very dedicated guy,” said his father, who is a Brewer City Council member. “He loves being a boom operator, flying all over the world and keeping an eye on America. I’m very proud of him and all those folks out there doing their work protecting this country.”
The Hometown Heroes ceremony was followed by the 101st Air Refueling Wing’s “Family Day.” AT&T sponsored the luncheon and cotton candy machine for the kids, said a company spokeswoman.