Veterans Day is November 11th and it is an opportunity to honor and remember those who have served our state and our country in uniform. As we observe Veterans Day, I want to express my sincere gratitude to our veterans for their service. We're proud of these men and women and their families for what they have done for us.
There are approximately 4,900 Nebraskans serving in the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard. More than 8,500 of our soldiers and airmen have served overseas in the last 10 years, with many serving two or more tours of duty in locations around the world. During the next several months we will welcome home approximately 400 members of the Nebraska National Guard from missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Many of our Nebraska Guard members have been highly decorated including 72 who have been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained while deployed and 16 have been awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device for heroism under fire. Additionally, 20 have been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device for heroism under fire and 166 have been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge. There have been 612 who have been awarded the Combat Action Badge and 15 medics have been awarded the Combat Medical Badge. Approximately 80% of Nebraska Air National Guard qualifying aircrew members have been awarded either the Air Medal or Aerial Achievement Medal for combat operations.
Last week, we welcomed home the 623rd Engineer Company after having served for over a year in Afghanistan. It was heartwarming to see the citizens of my hometown of Wahoo come out to greet these soldiers and welcome them home.
The Nebraska National Guard continues to work hard to provide support to our Guards members and their families before, during and after their deployments. We have ongoing support from our state's employers who work with our service members and their family members while their military employees are called away. In fact, two Nebraska organizations - the Burt County Sheriff's Office of Tekamah and Electrical Contractors Inc. of Omaha were recently awarded the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for their outstanding support of their military employees. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the Department of Defense to large, small and public sector employers for exceptional support of employees serving in the National Guard or Reserve.
Veterans Day is a day to recognize the sacrifices of those who are serving, as well as those who have served in uniform and it is important to thank our veterans for their service. Veterans Day serves as a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans aren't always free.
We are fortunate to live in a country where people are willing to step up to defend the liberties we hold dear. I know the men and women of the Nebraska National Guard are very appreciative of the support they receive from the people of Nebraska.
To our veterans, thank you for the service you have given to our state and this nation. We are very proud of you.