"To be recognized like that is about as good as it gets within the Commonwealth of Kentucky," explains Major General Edward Tonini.
Thousands of University of Kentucky basketball fans cheered as some of america's heroes were honored at halftime of Thursday's game between the Wildcats and Loyola. Governor Steve Beshear, joined by Major General Edward Tonini presented the Kentucky National Guard's 201st Engineer Battalion with an award for its service in Afghanistan.
"I got to go visit them myself last year to just see what they do and it made me even more appreciative of just what a fine bunch of men and women they are. We're awfully proud of them here in Kentucky," says Gov. Beshear.
The 201st was mobilized in March 2008 to conduct route reconnaissance and area clearance operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 500-plus members of the Workhorse Battalion disposed of more than 200-thousand landmines and improvised explosive devices.
"Every single day that they went on a mission, they knew that they were going to be in harm's way and almost everyday, they got blown up as they were helping support and protect the convoys that were doing re-supply missions all throughout this theater of Afghanistan," says Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht
And for many of the 201st, appearing on the court at Rupp Arena was a great honor.
"Many of them have never been to Rupp Arena, they are just big UK basketball fans. But, to get this kind of recognition, where everyone stopped and recognized the incredible things they accomplished in Afghanistan, was just something special to me and all the men and women," explains Maj. Gen. Tonini.
One soldier who was remembered at the ceremony was Sgt. Daniel Wallace of Dry Ridge. He was killed in 2008 when his unit was attacked while conducting a route clearing mission.