April 18, 2007

654th Military Police Company Soldiers honored for their service

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hampton
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Soldiers of the 654th Military Police Company were honored at a Freedom Salute ceremony April 15 in Petersburg. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

PETERSBURG, Va. – It’s been over two years since the 654th Military Police Company entered active federal service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They returned home on Jan. 7 after serving more than a year as part of a security force for dignitaries, VIP’s and others in and around the “Green Zone” and other parts of Baghdad.

Since returning home, members of the 654th reunited with family and friends and reacquainted themselves with an environment that until January of this year was only a memory. But on April 15 in Petersburg, the Soldiers of the 654th were honored for their service with the Freedom Salute, a tradition that has become more and more frequent for Virginia Guardsman since the war on terror began.

Over 300 people showed up to express their appreciation and gratitude for the more than 150 Soldiers who served. The show of support that the Soldiers received during the event was proof that Virginia stands by its troops who so willingly give of themselves for the cause of freedom.

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, awards the Army Combat Action badge to Soldiers of the 654th Military Police Company April 15 in Petersburg. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, was on hand for the event and recalled his trip to Baghdad to visit members of the 654th. Newman praised the Soldiers for the way they performed in an area that had seen an increase in violence.

“The 654th conducted themselves in an extraordinary fashion as changes were taking place with respect to their mission,” Newman said. “They carried out their mission and conducted themselves in the finest tradition” he added.

Honoring the Soldiers was just part of the story as families received accolades for the sacrifices and support they gave that allowed members of the 654th to do the things they did so well.

Nikkol Lewis, family support coordinator for the unit and wife of one of the Soldiers, knows all too well what it’s like having a loved one so far away from home. She was honored for her work with the families of deployed unit members and served as a shinning example of just how important it is for families who are left behind to stick together.

Soldiers weren't the only ones honored at the Freedom Salute ceremony. Family members who supported the troops and provided valuable support from home were also recognized and thanked for their service. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“When our troops are away serving to protect our way of life, we stand together as a family to support each other and to ease the burden of going it alone,” Lewis said.

The unit also recognized Master Sgt. Scott Temple with an award for distinguished support. Temple provided logistical support back at home station and served as an integral part of the unit’s success in carrying out its mission. Temple humbly accepted the award but insisted that his contribution was nothing and that it was the work of those on the ground who were the real heroes.

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