Ceremony in Tempe honors soldiers - East Valley Tribune: News

Ceremony in Tempe honors soldiers

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Posted: Sunday, September 27, 2009 2:31 pm | Updated: 12:50 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Family, friends and comrades of more than 100 soldiers in the US Army Reserves cheered, took photos and waved handheld American flags Sunday during a Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen Award Ceremony on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.

Slideshow: Welcome home ceremony

Family, friends and comrades of more than 100 soldiers in the US Army Reserves cheered, took photos and waved handheld American flags Sunday during a Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen Award Ceremony on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.

Slideshow: Welcome home ceremony

The reservists with the 301st Military Intelligence Battalion returned in June after serving several months overseas for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony was a way to officially recognize the soldiers and welcome them home.

Spc. Amanda Ross of Mesa spent nine and a half months in Baghdad serving as an imagery analyst, poring over aerial photography and watching the borders. She has been in the Army Reserves for two years and this was her first deployment.

“I learned a lot about myself and my job,” said Ross, 40, who is married and has three children. “I would love to go back. It was a great experience. I’m glad to be serving my country.”

Her husband, Randy Ross, said he’s happy to have his wife back home.

“She’s the love of my life,” he said. “It’s been lonely but it’s incredible (she served.) We need individuals willing to do that. I’m proud she did that.”

The soldiers received an award of an encased American flag folded in a triangle, with a specially-designed commemorative coin, lapel pin set and a Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen flag.

The award is a new soldier recognition program enacted by the US Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Spc. Michael Cowan of Mesa spent a year in Baghdad serving his first deployment as an intelligence analyst by studying the enemy, gathering information and making it useful to accomplish the mission, he said.

“I think we are doing a lot better there than what most people think,” said Cowan, 29, who has a 2-year-old daughter. “We are building schools and reconstructing homes and roads. We are rebuilding their lives and trying to give them a better life.”

Now that’s he’s back, Cowan said he will continue going to school at ITT Technical Institute in Tempe. He plans to get a degree in internet systems security and wants to work for the FBI.

Spc. Todd Brady of Mesa spent 10 months in Baghdad serving as a signals intelligence analyst by intercepting incoming enemy transmissions.

“I loved it, and I’ve already volunteered to go back,” said Brady, 21, who might be redeployed in January. “I’ve done more in my military career than I have done civilian wise.”

Congressman John Shadegg (R-Dist. 3), was one of three keynote speakers who congratulated the soldiers on their service during the third longest war in the nation’s history.

“It humbles me to be in your presence,” Shadegg said. “Without your service and your sacrifice, my job would not be possible. I don’t want you to ever forget that.”

He expressed his support of the war and its efforts and said if “we’re not vigilant,” the terrorism that hit the country on 9/11 “will happen again.”

“If we’re going to war as a nation, we cannot handicap our soldiers,” Shadegg said.

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