JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Roger Goodwin of the Hawaii National Guard shook hands with Gov. Linda Lingle during the "Freedom Salute" yesterday at Pearl City High School Auditorium.
at last get their due
It was a time of joy and recognition.
It was a time of sorrow.
Even as 82 Hawaii Army and Air Guard soldiers, airmen, their families and employers were recognized yesterday at a "Freedom Salute" ceremony for the achievements and sacrifices made while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death of a 20-year-old member of the 29th Brigade Combat Team in Balad was with everyone.
The ceremony started with a moment of silence for Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga, the first Hawaii citizen-soldier to die in Iraq.
Then 53 soldiers of Bravo Company, 193rd Aviation; 16 members of the 154th Wing and the 201st Combat Communications Group; and the four Hawaii Army Guard doctors and medical specialists were honored for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The "Freedom Salute" ceremony yesterday also recognized veterans who got almost no recognition or homecoming celebrations when they returned from the Vietnam War.
First Sgt. David Wallace -- the senior enlisted soldier of Bravo Company, 193rd Aviation -- served in the Air Force as a crew chief on an AC-130 gunship in Vietnam.
When he left the Air Force at Travis Force Base near San Francisco in 1969, Wallace, 58, said he was just given his discharge papers and nothing more.
This time -- at the last public ceremony the Hawaii National Guard has held on several islands to honor its returning soldiers and airmen -- Wallace who earned a Bronze Star while in Afghanistan last year, was given an encased American flag, commemorative coin, a certificate of appreciation and a lapel insignia.
Each soldier, their spouses and family members also got their picture taken with Gov. Linda Lingle and Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, head of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard.
Lingle said Bravo Company's tour in Afghanistan, which ended in April, was marked with several major accomplishments.
Working for the 25th Aviation Brigade at Kandahar, Lingle said Bravo Company processed 4,700 maintenance work orders -- the most of any unit in Afghanistan -- which resulted in providing 2,700 additional flying hours for Army aviators.
The unit also completed five aircraft recovery missions -- also the most done by any unit in the combat zone.
Alan Sarceda, a member of the 29th Infantry Brigade in 1968 when it was called to active duty because of the Vietnam War, said Lee's acknowledgment was long overdue. "My buddies who never came back never had this type of recognition.
"People don't realize what freedom means," said Sarceda, whose son Staff Sgt. Brandon Sarceda was an Air Guard convoy driver in Iraq.
The elder Sarceda noted: "To be born free is an accident. To live free is a responsibility. We are the peacekeepers of this great nation."
Nearly 1,000 Army and Guard personnel from Hawaii have deployed to support the war on terror since 2003. Another 2,600 still remain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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3 in 442nd
Three members of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, have been hospitalized following an accident June 29 near Balad when their vehicle rolled over.
Two of the soldiers, Spc. Satuala Amoa and Pvt. Readen Clavier, are recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethseda, Md., an Army Reserve spokesman said.
Sgt. Thomas Hairston, a member of the 100th Battalion's Charlie Company, is being held for observation for head injuries at an Army hospital in Germany since he was knocked unconscious during the accident and apparently suffered a concussion.
Amoa, also a member of Charlie Company, is suffering from chest injuries. Clavier, assigned to Delta Company, also suffered head injuries.
The Army said the three soldiers were on combat patrol near Logistic Support Area Anaconda near Balad when their vehicle rolled over. The incident was classified as a traffic accident and not caused by insurgents.
The 100th Battalion is one of three combat battalions assigned to the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team and has been in Iraq since early March.