Hanscom welcomes heroes home Published Jan. 19, 2007 By by 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Hanscom Air Force Base -- A crowd of more than 500 gathered to welcome home 80 Hanscom deployers with praise and thanks at the Aero Club Hangar Jan. 19. The Heroes' Homecoming, the first event of its kind here, honored troops who returned from deployments over the past six months. Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Sirois, 66th Air Base Wing and Electronic Systems Center command chief master sergeant, called the celebration "absolutely awesome." "This is an opportunity to really say 'thank you' for the tremendous services that these individuals performed. They represented our country, our Air Force and our installation wonderfully," she said. The homecoming truly was a celebration. "Everybody is here because they want to be," said Capt. Jessica Rose, who recently returned from Afghanistan. "It's great to take the time to say 'thanks.'" Deployers were recognized individually in front of a cheering crowd and presented medallions by base leaders for their services. Their family members were given medallions as well. "Many who deployed were separated from their families for months. Others left behind friends and the familiar comforts of home to serve in dangerous locations because they realized the importance of their mission and their role in fighting the Global War on Terror," said Col. Tom Schluckebier, 66 ABW commander. "We owe each of them our respect and gratitude." Radio talk show host and book author, Michael Graham, the emcee of the event, offered high praises to the honorees as well. He also thanked the group for their continued service. Local members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a military support organization composed primarily of motorcycle riders, attended the celebration to show their appreciation for the deployers and their families as well. The event also featured appearances by New England Patriots cheerleaders and Lexington, Mass. Minuteman Regional High School cheerleaders as well as performances by the Air Force Band of Liberty rock ensemble, Afterburner. "It's nice to know that what you did and the sacrifices that you made are recognized," said Tech. Sgt. Jillian John, who recently returned from deployment. "It's nice to know that other than my family missing me, other people missed me too." "This event is over the top," said Maj. Jeffrey Joers who deployed to Iraq. "The hardest thing [about deployment] is being away, but the best thing is making an important contribution to building a nation." Capt. Joseph Barber, who deployed to Kuwait and performed convoy duties in Iraq, also mentioned the difficulties of "being away." His son Matt, 7, said, "I was really sad when he [his father] was gone. He was gone a really long time and I missed him." "The families are the real heroes," said Captain Barber who expressed his thankfulness for the outpouring of support from base personnel and the Patriot Guard Riders. Married Staff Sgts. Carlo Carmon and Dianne Zulueta, who both deployed with the 66th Security Forces Squadron to Afghanistan, enjoyed the Heroes' Homecoming together. "It just makes you happy to come home and everyone is happy to see you," Sergeant Zulueta said. The base plans to hold a homecoming event twice a year to welcome home future deployers. Captain Barber noted the role Hanscom Airmen play in fighting the Global War on Terror, mentioning an increasing deployment operations tempo and the Air Force's continued support of deployed Army personnel. "The acquisition community is certainly not out of the fight." Colonel Schluckebier explained that since Hanscom is a small unit and does not have a flying mission, the base tends to send deployers out in small groups when compared with other installations. However, he said, "Our guys deserve this kind of homecoming as much as anyone else. It's important to recognize these Airmen for who they are -- they are all heroes."