Lynchburg National Guard soldiers receive Virginia’s National Service Medal

Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 7:12 PM EST
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Veterans across the commonwealth received Virginia’s National Service Medal Saturday.

More than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers had been under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

For nine months, Task Force Red Dragon was deployed in East Africa on a security mission. The task force included more than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers.

“Conducted security operations protecting critical infrastructure bases and other military facilities there and in support of our national objectives there,” said Commander of Taskforce Red Dragon Col. Jim Tierney.

Military officials say this is the largest task force to be deployed since World War II. For SGT. 1st Class Alton Sturdifan being away from his wife and six kids was the hardest part.

“At the going away ceremony there were a lot of tears. I’ve been deployed multiple times but as an older guy, this one kind of hit home the most. My daughter still struggles a little bit with me having to go to work every day,” said Sturdifan.

Governor Glenn Youngkin honored their sacrifice by awarding them Virginia’s National Service Medal.

“And yes, you missed birthdays, you missed parent/teachers’ meetings, you missed basketball games, precious time with your parents, your family, spouses, sons, daughters and you did so willingly,” said Youngkin.

270 National Guard soldiers in Lynchburg received the medal.

“When our country called you answered. You answered that call to defend our freedoms,” added Youngkin, giving soldiers like Sturdifan a token of gratitude.

“For the governor to take his time and come engage us, it means a lot,” said Sturdifan. “It means a lot to know that the commonwealth appreciates our sacrifice along with our families.”

Lynchburg was one of three ceremonies held across the Commonwealth. In total 800 soldiers were recognized.