Soldiers Open Utah's

2006 Legislative Session

 

Written by Maj. Hank McIntire

Published March 13, 2006

 

Download Printer-Friendly Version

       

 

Sgt. Alex Fajardo, 211th Aviation, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, leads the Utah Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance Jan. 16.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Alex Fajardo, 211th Aviation, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, leads the Utah Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance Jan. 16.

SALT LAKE CITY — In tribute to the service that the Utah National Guard provides to our state and nation, Utah legislators invited the Guard to play a key role in the opening of the 2006 legislative session Jan. 16 on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

The Utah Army National Guard Honor Guard provided a flag ceremony in both the House and Senate chambers, and Maj. Joel V. Miller, 115th Engineer Group, led House members in the Pledge of Allegiance, while Sgt. Alex Fajardo, 211th Aviation, did the honors in the Senate.

Miller, a chaplain, served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 115th from 2003-2005 providing spiritual support to Soldiers in Scania and Balade, Iraq. He considered it a great privilege to be asked to be a part of the Pledge ceremony.

“It was quite an honor to stand in behalf of all Utah Guard members and be there with the people who lead our state,” said Miller.

Maj. Joel Miller, left, and Sgt. Ronald Hammond, 115th Engineer Group, with Noor, a five-year-old Iraqi girl who received heart surgery in the U.S. thanks to the efforts of Miller, Hammond and many others.

Photo by Sgt. Robert Davis

Maj. Joel Miller, left, and Sgt. Ronald Hammond, 115th Engineer Group, with Noor, a five-year-old Iraqi girl who received heart surgery in the

U.S. thanks to the efforts of Miller, Hammond and many others.

One of the highlights of Miller’s deployment to Iraq was helping to make the difficult arrangements for Noor, a five-year-old Iraqi girl he met in a local village, to receive surgery for a heart condition. After eight months of tireless efforts by Miller, Sgt. Ronald Hammond and members of the 115th Engineer Group and 116th Engineer Company, the girl and her father were flown to Maine for surgery performed by Dr. Reed Quinn.

“It was quite a task, but it was worth it,” said Miller, who indicated that Noor convalesced in the U.S. for about eight weeks and then returned to Iraq with her father.

Being asked to lead the Pledge in the Senate was also a singular honor for Fajardo. He was introduced by Senate President John Valentine as a native of Honduras and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. Valentine also announced that Fajardo became a U.S. citizen last November after returning from Afghanistan where he served in 2004-2005 with the 211th Aviation as a helicopter refueling and rearming specialist.

"I wasn’t really expecting that they would talk about my service to the country and my receiving my citizenship,” said Fajardo. “I love this country so much, and leading the Utah Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance meant a lot to me.”

Sgt. Scott Campbell, left, and Staff Sgt. Wyatt Davis represent the Utah Honor Guard at the Utah State Capitol.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Scott Campbell, left, and Staff Sgt. Wyatt Davis

represent the Utah Honor Guard at the Utah State Capitol.

Sgt. Jennifer Kelley, left, and Sgt. 1st Class John Mark participate in the flag ceremony to open the 2006 Utah legislative session Jan. 16.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Jennifer Kelley, left, and Sgt. 1st Class John Mark participate in

the flag ceremony to open the 2006 Utah legislative session Jan. 16.