Pennsylvania Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Matt Dill displayed the Air Medal pined to his chest.
He was one of about 300 troops of the 1-104 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion recognized during a “Freedom Salute” ceremony held Saturday in Richland Township.
“I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Dill, a Southmont resident.
“This community has a lot of military history behind it. I’m pretty overwhelmed by the support.”
The soldiers were recognized for their year-long deployment in Afghanistan in 2013.
“The combat mission you conducted in Afghanistan was extremely important for our nation’s security,” said Brig. Gen. John Gronski, commander of the 28th Infantry Division, with an Apache Longbow attack helicopter displayed nearby.
“You performed with courage and commitment in a very hostile environment,” Gronski told the troops. “You warriors are the ones who have done and continue to do the heavy lifting.
“You protect our nation and the freedom all of us as Americans hold so dear,” he said.
He reminded the audience that freedom has a price.
Gronski acknowledged the sacrifice of Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner of Harrisburg and Chief Warrant Officer Jarett Yoder of Reading.
The battalion members died April 9, 2013, when their Apache helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan.
“All of us assembled here will never forget the sacrifice that they and their families have made,” he said.
The Pennsylvania National Guard has deployed 40,000 soldiers and airmen overseas since the Sept. 11 attacks, said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania National Guard adjutant.
He offered his praise for the 1-104th.
“In my opinion this unit, given its combat experience, is the best unit of its type in the Army,” Craig said.
Dill said he was thankful for the hometown support and residents who appreciate the military.
“People walk up to you and say thanks,” Dill said. “They know about our unit. It’s been that way for a long time. It’s great to have that kind of support.”
The ceremony for soldiers and families was held at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.