Hometown pride, love for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Laura L. Valentine
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
In hometowns across America, men and women of the armed forces are honored in various ways. Parades, "welcome home" ceremonies, dedications and cookouts are just a sampling of the ways servicemembers are remembered and thanked.

In the small town of West Concord, Minn., support was shown for "hometown heros" during the "Tribute to Our Troops" ceremony July 22, 2011. Among those honored were two Team McConnell Airmen, Master Sgt. Rebecca Smith and her husband Master Sgt. (Ret.) Matthew Smith.

Rebecca Smith, 22nd Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Section superintendent, and her husband, a civilian deputy airfield manager with the 22nd Operations Support Squadron, have been stationed at McConnell for almost four years.
The couple has been in the Air Force for all of their 16 years of marriage.

During the tribute ceremony, the Smiths and eight other servicemembers were recognized for their service to the country. Chosen recipients are those from, or with ties to, the city of West Concord. Rebecca Smith is a native of the city.

"I joined the service in 1993 because of the influence of my father, who was in the Army Air Force until 1947," said Rebecca Smith.

With the city's population less than 1,000, there is not a strong military connection for many residents, she said.

"I wanted to pay tribute to our military," said Jeff McCool, West Concord mayor, in an interview for KAAL TV, Austin, Minn. "I don't think they get enough."

The honored guests received a "Key to the City," and the Smiths were welcomed home by friends and family.

"I got to come home and see my friends and family," said Rebecca Smith. "To have my family see me in uniform really bought me home and made me proud of everything I have done."

The key to the city is an ornamental key city officials present to esteemed visitors, residents, or others the city wishes to honor. Evoking images of medieval walled cities whose gates were guarded during the day and locked at night, the key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will as trusted friend of the city residents.

The Smith's plan on retiring to the West Concord area, where they will continue to be trusted friends to a city that has honored them, and all others, who serve.