Third ID Helicopter Unit Honored - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/11/03

Third ID Helicopter Unit Honored

Members of the 1-3 stand in front of their helicopters. Members of the 1-3 stand in front of their helicopters.
Receiving medals. Receiving medals.

Since September 11, 2001, life has changed for all Americans. Security has tightened and Americans have taken a stand against terrorism. Our military has been on the front lines defending our country and people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Apache Longbow helicopter pilots from Hunter Army Airfield were the first to break through the Iraqi border at the beginning of the war with Iraq. Today, 300 men and women from the First Battalion Third Aviation Regiment were honored at a special ceremony. It was a touching ceremony for the soldiers as well as their families and friends. The soldiers say they were just doing their jobs, fighting for our country, and the recognition is just an added honor.

"I feel pretty good, I was awarded a bronze star and air medal with V device," CW4 David Keshel told us.

These soldiers fired the first direct shots of the ground war.

"During that time, you don't think about awards, medals, coming home or the aftermath, you just think about what you are doing at that point in time," CW4 Brent Huntsman said.

At a special ceremony, families were able to see the results of the soldiers' hard work as medals were pinned and heroic names called out. "I'm down here to show how proud I am of my grandson, Brent Huntsman, who's a helicopter pilot," proud grandmother Elsi Leeser told us.

And the soldiers themselves felt pretty proud, too. "It's an extraordinary feeling, it's really humbling, it's good to be here with family first of all, it's a real honor," Capt. RJ Garcia said.

And Lt. Col. Daniel Williams added, "This marks the end of one period and the beginning of another, giving soldiers their awards to say thank you to them and thank you for the sacrifices to the families, and this marks the beginning of preps for the next war, should there be one."

And while the medals mean the world to the soldiers and their families, many say they are not the real heroes. "The real hero in my opinion is the soldier that never came home," CW4 Keshel said.

The soldiers wore their medals proudly and they wanted us to let everyone know the letters and care packages are just as good as the medals and they received each and every one and appreciate all the support from our communities.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

Today, some of our local soldiers are being honored for their valor and commitment to fighting terrorism. At Hunter Army Airfield, about 300 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment are being presented medals. This unit, known as the Vipers, is part of the 4th Brigade, Third Infantry Division, flying the newest generation of attack helicopters, the AH-64D Apache Longbow. They deployed in January, and flew ten combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom spanning 350 hours of combat operations.

Reported by: WTOC staff

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