'Freedom Salute' for soldiers returning home

January 10, 2010 8:12:41 PM PST
A group of Illinois National Guard soldiers back from their tours of duty in Afghanistan received a "Freedom Salute" Sunday in Aurora.Approximately 65 soldiers from the 106th Cavalry were honored.

Their 15-month deployment was spent performing humanitarian aid missions and training Afghan police. They were part of the largest deployment of Illinois National Guard troops since World War II.

"Their reasons will be personal and varied, but I believe the fundamental reason men and women still step up to serve is because we still have a generation of young men and women ...who believe freedom is worth fighting for and that someone has to do it," said Captain Nathan Westby, 106th Cavalry.

Eight other Illinois National Guard units, totaling nearly 600 soldiers, were honored across the state over the weekend.

Also, there were remembrances for 18 soldiers who died during the deployment, and one soldier was honored with a Purple Heart.