Freedom Salute Ceremony 

Maine soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan were honored Friday in Orono.Meghan Hayward reports.”Our rights and liberties don’t come free. They are earned every day that you folks serve our country.”All 157 members of the Bravo Company 3rd Battalion, 172nd Mountain Infantry Unit of the Maine Army National Guard returned home, with only a few minor wounds.”That’s pretty commendable. There’s not many units that can say they went over there, did the kind of things that we did and everybody returned home safely with very minor wounds if anything.”The soldiers conducted combat infantry operations against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces for nine months in Afghanistan.Those efforts were recognized at the ceremony.But many of soldiers say the recognition isn’t necessary.”This ceremony is not for us. It’s for the population. Everyone of my men would go back in a heart beat.”But they all appreciate the support they receive from Mainers.”We receive many packages and letters from the folks of Maine. Actually I started writing letters thanking those folks and as time went on I had so many from the great people of Maine I couldn’t write everybody.”The soldiers were all home in time for the holidays and enjoyed spending it with their families. But they say their fellow soldiers have become family too.For many, this was the first time they had seen each other since they got home.”It’s an absolutely refreshing feeling. As soon as we walk through the doors and see some of the guys you haven’t seen. Some of them we haven’t seen in three months with all the traveling transitions. So it’s really an unexplainable feeling.’