News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 8, 2013

Honor awaits 181st Intelligence Wing

Air Guardsmen receive awards at Hometown Hero Salute

TERRE HAUTE — As he sat on his mother’s lap inside the Air National Guard Base at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field on Sunday, little Henry Shultz was all smiles as he waited for the start of a ceremony recognizing his father’s service to the community and the country.

The 10-month-old’s father, Tech. Sgt. Elliot Shultz, was among about 120 men and women who were honored during the 181st Intelligence Wing’s Hometown Heroes Salute.

“The purpose of today’s ceremony is to recognize the 181st Intelligence Wing’s airmen who have deployed for 30 days or more since 9/11 in support of a contingency operation,” said 1st Lt. Brandy Fultz, during the opening remarks.

Kristie Shultz, Henry’s mother, said her husband was deployed to Kuwait.

“We obviously are very proud of my husband, his father,” who has made a lot of sacrifices, she said.

“It’s nice to be a part of a bigger family here,” she said, proud of her husband and proud to be a part of the unit.

Col. Donald Bonte, 181st Intelligence Wing commander, also spoke of family.

“The 181st Intelligence Wing is truly a family. ... The dedication of our members, the understanding of their families and the support of the community, our extended family [are] critical in order for the Wing to continue performing its state and federal mission,” he said.

The Hometown Heroes Salute is a campaign to honor airmen, their families “and others who do not wear the uniform but sacrifice nonetheless,” according to its website.

In the presence of their loved ones, the airmen received special items, based on a three-tier structure: The first tier gift was a framed coin and letter of appreciation from Air National Guard leaders given to those who served 30 to 179 consecutive days.

The second tier was a framed U.S. flag for those who served 180 to 365 consecutive days. And the third tier was an eagle statue for service of 366 or more consecutive days.

“I am honored and humbled that our base receives so much support and that we have this opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of our outstanding airmen,” said Bonte, who handed out the awards.

One of the recipients of a framed coin and appreciation letter was Staff Sgt. Chris Lewis, who has been serving for seven years.

“Personally, for me, the greater honor is serving the country,” he told the Tribune-Star.

The Hometown Heroes program was formally launched by the Air National Guard in 2009. The last HHS ceremony conducted by the 181st Intelligence Wing was in 2010.

Another award recipient was Airman 1st Class Leah Puckett, who has been with the 181st Intelligence Wing for three years.

“I think it’s really amazing that they put on this kind of program to pay tribute to all of us who are able to give our time serving our country,” she said.

“It’s an honor,” she added.

In addition to the airmen, families were also honored.

Spouses/ significant others and children received special items (also based on three tiers) either before or after the award ceremony. Among the items they were given were logo-inscribed crystal bowls, HHS logo lapel pins, HHS logo charm bracelets and HHS logo dog tags.

A special award called “Center of Influence” was also presented by the airmen to “someone they feel supported them and their family during their extended absence,” Fultz, the emcee, said. They received an HHS logo medallion.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett received a Center of Influence medallion “to thank you for supporting our airmen and our Hometown Heroes Salute awards ceremony,” Fultz said.

The medallion’s case bears’ the words of former President George W. Bush: “We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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