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2011 Heroes Homecoming and Summer Bash
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds (left), Electronic Systems Center commander, presents a medallion to Lt. Col. Tamara Schwartz, along with her daughter, during Heroes Homecoming at Memorial Park June 24. More than 30 military men and women who have returned home from deployment within the last six months were honored during the pep rally-style event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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Heroes honored, remembered during homecoming celebration; community entertained during Summer Bash

Posted 6/29/2011   Updated 6/29/2011 Email story   Print story


by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

6/29/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -  -- Some 30 Airmen, two military working dogs and a host of family members were honored during a Heroes Homecoming celebration in Memorial Park June 24.

Despite gloomy weather, a large crowd, including base senior leaders, a Medal of Honor recipient, community leaders and two former New England Patriots players, showed up to officially welcome home military men and women who have returned from deployments over the past six months.

Local radio talk show host Michael Graham, who is also the Electronic Systems Center honorary commander, served as the master of ceremonies and kicked off the event by saying that it was great to be back at Hanscom.

"Today's honorees are just a few of the thousands of men and women, military and civilian, who have been called upon to do their part in service to our country," he said. "They have served and continue to serve proudly with distinction. We recognize that every individual who is deployed is doing an important job as they serve our country and keep each one of us safe."

After the heroes marched into formation and special guests were introduced, the two former Patriots players were invited to the podium to speak. Bill Lenkaitis, who played 10 seasons with the team while practicing dentistry, and Randy Vataha, a wide receiver who spent six seasons with the team, welcomed the troops.

"Bill and I may have played for a team called the Patriots, but you are the real Patriots," said Mr. Vataha.

Just before the Airmen were called on stage, Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, ESC commander, addressed the crowd. This was the eighth homecoming celebration he has been a part of since coming to Hanscom.

"Our heroes today represent virtually every organization from across Hanscom," he said. "They have served overseas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Krygyzstan and other areas of Southwest Asia. You led the way in bringing hope and freedom to millions around the world."

General Bowlds also reminded everyone that while the day was a time of celebration, those who did not return must be remembered.

"We must never forget those who have not been so fortunate," he said. "Over the past year, we have hosted six fallen hero arrivals at Hanscom, including two with family members that are part of our Hanscom team."

After the general's remarks, the heroes were called on stage one by one to receive a small token of appreciation. As they saluted the commander, General Bowlds then placed a medallion, attached to a red, white and blue ribbon, around their necks.

The heroes walked down the receiving line, some with children attached to their hips or military working dogs by their sides, shaking hands with senior leaders, Medal of Honor recipient Navy Capt. Tom Hudner and the two Patriots players before exiting the stage.

As the 30 heroes crossed the stage, the crowd erupted in applause.

The end of the ceremony marked the beginning of the Summer Bash celebration where the Hanscom community enjoyed an evening of food, games, carnival rides and fun.

Inclement weather prevented the fireworks display, but 66th Force Support Squadron officials say they will reschedule a fireworks show at a later time.

X-BAND and the Band of Liberty's rock group, Afterburner, entertained the audience, Peter Panic wowed kids with his juggling skills and Callahan's Kenpo Karate demonstration kept children and adults enthralled.

Before the rain came down, activities and events wrapped up at approximately 6:30 p.m.

"Despite the weather, I think fun was had by all at Summer Bash," said Russ Jackson, 66th Force Support Squadron community program manager. "We're already looking forward to next year."

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