The bright fall sun shone on the front steps of the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, as the gold-domed capitol building opened its front doors to allow units of the Massachusetts National Guard to enter.
The units marched through the corridors of the historic state house and into Memorial Hall to receive battle streamers commemorating their recent deployments.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick presided over the formal ceremony in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, awarding battle streamers to approximately 31 Army and Air National Guard Units for their wartime service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom dating back to 2008.
Gov. Patrick, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Adjutant General of Massachusetts, and State Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa, senior enlisted advisor of the Massachusetts National Guard awarded the streamers, as units presented their colors to the governor.
“We understand the burden that each member of our Armed Forces takes on behalf of all of us,” Patrick said. “Today, we have a small opportunity to recognize that service and that sacrifice and to say to you personally how proud you make us,” he said.
The battle streamers were awarded to recognize the achievements and sacrifices made by the deployed Massachusetts National Guard units in the recent and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The streamers presented designated unit participation in the conflicts and also highlighted units with distinctive accomplishments during the deployments.
“Campaign streamers are symbols of actions, battles, and operations in which the Massachusetts National Guard units participated,” said Susan Wornick, longtime anchor and reporter for WCVB-TV Channel 5 who spoke prior to the streamer presentation. “These streamers were often earned by the blood of our Soldiers and Airmen. They are honored symbols of service and sacrifice.”
The Massachusetts National Guard displays battle streamers documenting and honoring its service in every major military engagement throughout the history of the United States, starting with the Revolutionary War and continuing to present day deployments in support of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Verified combat credit entitles a unit to an appropriate campaign streamer. Displaying the streamers on their unit flags signifies service in a particular battle, campaign or war.
“I’m honored to join everybody here and agree that we should share the two most important words that your family and friends want to here, and that is: Welcome home,” said U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney of the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District.
The opening of the state house’s front doors is a momentous event, as they are opened only when the governor leaves and assumes office, the sitting president or a head of state arrives, and when military units return from battle or war.
“Today our Soldiers and Airmen were honored by entering the State House's front doors and presented their unit flags to the governor to receive deployment battle streamers,” said Rice. “This continues our proud tradition of recognizing units for the past 150 years since the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment’s glorious return from the Civil War and the 211th Field Artillery’s noteworthy service in Vietnam, 50 years ago,” he said. “This room is draped with the history of our country. Not just Boston; not just the commonwealth. This is our country,” said Rice. “What an honor for me to be here today to be a part of something that shows this legacy of duty, honor, justice, country, and freedom.”
Spc. Michael Wallace had the opportunity to present the colors of his unit, the 972nd Military Police Company, based in Reading, Mass. He stood on the Memorial Hall balcony along with the other recipients and watched the ceremony.
“It’s really an honor to be here,” Wallace said. “It means so much to me and the others at our company to receive this type of recognition.”