PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – More than 110 New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 69th Infantry commemorated their service in Afghanistan with a Freedom Salute Ceremony in Peekskill on Sunday.
The soldiers of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Task Force deployed to Afghanistan in January 2012 and returned to the U.S. in late September.
Joined by their families and National Guard leaders at the New York State Armory in Peekskill, the unit cased its colors, symbolizing their return to their former assignment with Company C, 1-69th Infantry.
"They got thrown about every problem in the book and their determination carried the day," said Capt. Mathew Kilgore, Commander of Company, B, Task Force Iron.
Task Force Iron, which is comprised of 500 soldiers from units from across the state, was responsible for assisting the Afghan Army in securing 200 miles of Highway One, finding and clearing dozens of improvised explosive devices (IED).
The task force's missions played an essential role in the transition of security from international forces to the Afghan Army and Police.
Kilgore, who is from Cornwall and 1st Sgt. Michael O'Brien of Long Beach received the Bronze Star Medals for their service, while Sgt. Kieran Murphy of Pearl River was presented with the Purple Heart.
Murphy was wounded on July 13, 2012 when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an IED.
Bill and Liz Brink, parents of Company B Specialist Andrew Brink, 24, said they missed their son while he was out of the country, but that they "were able to have contact with him," via email, Facebook and phone calls.
Andrew Brink joined the Army, his mother said, because he felt he wanted to serve his country. Now that he is home, he is looking to go to school, she said.
Sunday's ceremony was part of the Freedom Salute Campaign, which began in 2003 by the Army National Guard to honor soldiers for their service and to thank their families, spouses, children and employers.
Major Sean Flynn, XO, Task Force Iron, thanked family members for providing a steadfast support system for their soldiers.
"You have our undying gratitude, our love and our respect," he said.