LEWISTON — “You make us very proud,” said Gov. Paul LePage to Maine’s citizen soldiers of the 133rd Engineer Battalion and the 1035th Survey and Design Team at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée on Sunday morning.

Those words also summed up the sentiments of several dignitaries, who received heartfelt expressions of appreciation during a “Freedom Salute.” 

The event honored the 165 members of the unit who are now home from nearly a year’s deployment in Afghanistan.

Members of the state’s Congressional delegation on stage, along with parents, wives, husbands and excited children in the audience, observed each soldier of the Maine Army National Guard unit as they received personal recognition.

“You are front line heroes, but your families have truly been right by your side,” LePage told the soldiers. 

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins recalled the deployment last summer as “a solemn day of parting and prayer,” and added that Sunday’s gathering was “a day of joy and pride for a job well done.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud echoed those remarks, and also recognized the steadfast backing of the Freeport Flag Ladies, who have been present at all homecomings for Maine military units. Michaud reminded the audience to remember the men and women who are still in harm’s way.

“We have called on you a lot,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree told the soldiers and their families. She noted that numerous soldiers of Maine’s 133rd and 1035th units have served in multiple deployments.

“You have exceeded every expectation,” Col. Dwaine Drummond told the soldiers in his remarks, referencing the historical roots of the 133rd Engineer Battalion, which dates back to 1760 and includes participation in the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the two world wars and other military engagements during the past 100 years. He described the units’ duties in Afghanistan in the past year, functioning as the Central Command Materiel Recovery Element. They completed 30 critical projects, valued in excess of $42 million, including five base closures, 12 base transfers and 17 partial base “de-scopes.”

The 1035th Survey and Design Team is a small group which provided engineering surveys of jobsites and detailed drawings for missions. During deployment, they provided survey and design support to every company in the 133rd Engineer Battalion in bases all across Afghanistan. Further, they provided survey support to an Air Force construction unit during one of the largest construction projects at Bagram Airfield.

Col. Drummond described the awards and certificates presented to each soldier at the event. These awards included a flag in a wooden presentation box, commemorative coins, medallions, lapel pins and carved walking sticks.

In single file, the soldiers walked across the stage to shake hands with the dignitaries, including Gerard Dennison, constituent services representative for U.S. Sen. Angus King. Other members of the military who participated in the program were Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard; Lt. Col. Dean Preston, commander of the 133rd Engineer Battalion; and Command Sergeant Major Kevin Walsh. The military officers also took part in presentations recognizing the Unit Center of Influence and Unit Family Readiness Group.

Posting of the colors was by the Maine Select Honor Guard and the National Anthem was sung by Capt. Lisa Sessions.

Capt. David DeRienzo, chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction.


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