51st Governor’s Day - A Special Reunion

Written by Spc. Kelly K. Collett  - Published - Sept. 21, 2004

   

Photo by Spc. Matt Smith

Governor Olene S. Walker reviewing troops with Maj. Gen. Tarbet and Brig. Gen. Wilson.

September 11, also known now as 9\11, has come to be a day to reflect on the tragedy that could have torn our nation apart.  But instead of breaking our spirits completely, the breaks were welded together with the undying resolve of the American people.  It was on this day that the Army and Air National Guard of Utah gathered at Camp Williams for Governors day.

 

Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the adjutant general for the Utah National Guard said, “It is a very somber occasion, as we recollect what happened three years ago.

But we’re delighted to have many of our deployed units back today…1457th, 489th, and the M.I. folks are back. But we’re mindful of those that are still out there today. There is about 400 in Iraq and about 400 in Afghanistan.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

 

The day consisted of multiple flyovers by KC-135E stratotankers and UH-60 blackhawk helicopters.  A moment of silence was observed in recognition of the fallen three years ago in New York City, Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania countryside.

 

Families of the deployed then assembled on the parade field.  They held yellow balloons in remembrance of their loved ones who served.  The balloons were then unconfined and floated far into the warm morning sky. The families were honored for their sacrifices and praised as modern patriots.

 

Photo by Spc. Matt Smith

Families of deployed soldiers released yellow balloons in remembrance of those currently serving overseas. 

The troop review was then underway.  Reviewing the troops was the Honorable Governor Olene S. Walker, commander in chief of the Utah National Guard.  Accompanying her was Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet, and Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Wilson. Cannons were fired by the 145th Field Artillery in honor of Governor Walker.

 

For many, the morning was a time to visit and catch up with friends.  For the soldiers of the 1457th, this was their first drill since coming home from being deployed to Iraq.  The crowds of green were filled with smiles, laughter and the occasional warm embrace.

 

When asked if he felt honored to command the troops on such a special occasion, Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Wilson, the corp artillery commander, and commander of the troops for the 4th consecutive year responded, “It’s pretty humbling, in retrospect of what’s occurred in the last three years, and the number of soldiers that have been deployed and have served their country in various capacities around the world.  It’s a great honor and great privilege and a very humbling experience.”

 

Photo by Spc. Kelly Collett

Soldiers stand at attention waiting for review from their commander in chief.

Several Soldiers were also honored and received awards.  Some received purple hearts for wounds received in combat. Spc. Donald Haring was one of these young soldiers. “While in Iraq, I received a purple heart for wounds received from an IED… I caught some shrapnel in the elbow.  I feel a little embarrassed; I think everyone out here made the same sacrifices I did.  I just got stuck in the wrong spot at the wrong time,” Spc. Haring said humbly and honestly. 

 

There were many who were called heroes, yet they felt inadequate to the praise that was given.  They all accepted their awards with the humility characteristic of true heroes.

 

The day wound down with the ceremony ending and the soldiers being released to their families to participate in the array of events that were prepared.  All had time to reflect on the sacrifices every man and woman of the National Guard has given, and will continue to give with honor to defend their family and freedoms, from any enemy, foreign or domestic.

Photo by Spc. Matt Smith

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters do a flyover during inspection of the troops.