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Milwaukee Salutes its Hometown Heroes

From the podium, Col. Ted Metzgar, commander of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, presents two etched swords to Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Parlato, command chief of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, and Master Sgt. Mike Schmaling, 1st Sgt. of the 128th Mission Support Group, during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  The swords were purchased in Spain, and they were presented to the recipients on behalf of the 128th Air Refueling Wing and 313th Air Expeditionary Wing.  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days.  Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

From the podium, Col. Ted Metzgar, commander of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, presents two etched swords to Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Parlato, command chief of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, and Master Sgt. Mike Schmaling, 1st Sgt. of the 128th Mission Support Group, during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. The swords were purchased in Western Europe, and they were presented to the recipients on behalf of the 128th Air Refueling Wing and 313th Air Expeditionary Wing. The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Brig. Gen. John E. McCoy, Wisconsin's assistant adjutant general for Air, addresses a gathered crowd of Airmen and family members during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  Gen. McCoy applauded the recipient Airmen's ability to "do the work America asks of us."  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days.  Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Brig. Gen. John E. McCoy, Wisconsin's assistant adjutant general for Air, addresses a gathered crowd of Airmen and family members during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. Gen. McCoy applauded the recipient Airmen's ability to "do the work America asks of us." The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, offers remarks to more than 100 Airmen during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  Gen. Dunbar told the gathered crowd of locally stationed Airmen, family members, and recipient Airmen of the 128th Air Refueling Wing that "the greatest Air Force on the planet cannot do what it does without the Air National Guard."  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days.  Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, offers remarks to more than 100 Airmen during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. Gen. Dunbar told the gathered crowd of locally stationed Airmen, family members, and recipient Airmen of the 128th Air Refueling Wing that "the greatest Air Force on the planet cannot do what it does without the Air National Guard." The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Chatham, 128th Air Refueling Wing maintenance squadron superintendent, shakes hands with Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Parlato during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  Chatham received a wood-framed letter of appreciation signed by the director and the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard for his duty while deployed overseas.  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days.  Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Chatham, 128th Air Refueling Wing maintenance squadron superintendent, shakes hands with Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Parlato during a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. Chatham received a wood-framed letter of appreciation signed by the director and the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard for his duty while deployed overseas. The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Senior military and civilian officials lead applause at the conclusion of a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  Over 500 Airmen and family members attended the award ceremony wherein over 100 Airmen were formally recognized for their contributions while deployed overseas.  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days.  Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

Senior military and civilian officials lead applause at the conclusion of a Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. Over 500 Airmen and family members attended the award ceremony wherein over 100 Airmen were formally recognized for their contributions while deployed overseas. The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard event that recognizes Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk.

An award for center of influence medallion is set upon others of its kind during a Hometown Heroes Salute award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.  The award for center of influence medallion is given to Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days, and it is meant as a gift of respect to friends, family members, or other associates who helped an Airman during his or her deployment.  The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard recognition event that started in 2009.  Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Jeremy Wilson.

An award for center of influence medallion is set upon others of its kind during a Hometown Heroes Salute award ceremony at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. The award for center of influence medallion is given to Airmen who have deployed overseas for more than 30 days, and it is meant as a gift of respect to friends, family members, or other associates who helped an Airman during his or her deployment. The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard recognition event that started in 2009. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Jeremy Wilson.

MILWAUKEE -- Work and routine duty are the staples of a military career.

However, respect and acknowledgement are hallmarks of military service.

Community members and a majority of the 128th Air Refueling Wing's Airmen hosted this year's Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign at Gen. Mitchell International Airport, here, on Sunday, December 4, 2011.

Col. Ted Metzgar, commander of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, offered his view of the award ceremony during his opening remarks from the stage in the base's maintenance hangar.

"This ceremony is not about the general officers, command chief, or special guests," Col. Metzgar said. "It is about you, who have sacrificed so much."

Col. Metzgar was specifically addressing more than 130 Airmen who have deployed to Southwest Asia or Western Europe in the past two years. His audience included the family members of award recipients, members of the 128th Community Council--civilians who work with the 128th Air Refueling Wing in the local community--and more than 600 of the Wing's Airmen.

Before departing the podium, Col. Metzgar called Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Parlato and 1st Sergeant Mike Schmaling to center stage where they were presented with detailed swords purchased in Europe. The swords were set in hand-crafted wooden display cases, and they were given as reflections of the recipients' duty and service to both the 128th Air Refueling Wing and the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing.

"These guys, in a figurative way, slayed a lot of dragons," Col. Metzgar said. He clarified that the 'dragons' were the continuous and demanding rigors of working in a deployed location while being available to the deployed Airmen of the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing at all times and for all causes.

Brig. Gen. John E. McCoy, Wisconsin's assistant adjutant general for Air, spoke next, and he further recognized the Hometown Hero award recipients' contributions.

"It's important that we recognize the fact that you've deployed," Gen. McCoy said. "I truly appreciate what you do every day, either here or abroad."

After discussing the involvement of family members in a military member's deployment, Gen. McCoy offered a poignant appraisal of military service.

"We do the work America asked of us," he said.

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, addressed the audience with a perspective of high import.

"Our Air Force does amazing things every day," Gen. Dunbar said. "[But] the greatest Air Force on the planet could not do what it does without the Air National Guard."

Gen. Dunbar then turned his comments toward the award recipients.

"You stood up, volunteered, went to training, put on the uniform, and, when we called, you were ready," he said.

In his closing remarks, Gen. Dunbar added, "The price of serving is immeasurable."

All of the award recipients walked across the stage one at a time, and with their awards in hand, they shook hands with Maj. Gen. Dunbar, Brig. Gen. McCoy, Col. Metzgar, Command Chief Master Sgt. Parlato, and Larry Meyers, the 128th Community Council chairman.

Following the ceremony, several Airmen spoke about their awards and the Air National Guard's recognition of their overseas duty.

Master Sgt. Mike Schmaling, 1st Sgt. of the 128th Mission Support Group, said, "It's about the family. That's why we do what we do." Regarding the sword 1st Sgt. Schmaling received, he said, "It's overwhelming. I'd like to think we don't do this for the [reward]; I'd do it again . . . for free."

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Venus, a 128th Civil Engineering Firefighter, said, "[This award] is more for my family than for me." He added, "It's for their staying home while I was over there."

The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign is an Air National Guard program that officially recognizes Airmen for their contributions to overseas missions, according to the Air National Guard's website. Airmen receive awards based on the duration of their deployments, and many of the 128th Air Refueling Wing's Airmen received a wood-framed letter of appreciation from the Air National Guard and an award for center of influence medallion, which is meant as a gift that can be offered to the person who most helped an Airman during his or her deployment.