BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More than 170 soldiers from the 205th Engineer Battalion of the Louisiana National Guard received the War Cross Medal for their service overseas Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge. That included soldiers like Staff Sergeant Andrew Mouton, who met his daughter Ella Grace for the first time when he returned from duty in December. Ella Grace is one of seven babies from the 205th born while their fathers were deployed.
"It was very emotional seeing my wife with my baby in her arms whenever I got off the airplane. It was a momentous and joyous occasion and we're still doing it," said Mouton.
Mouton's and the sacrifices of the other men and women were honored as part of the National Guard's Freedom Salute Awards.
"It's just a small token of our appreciation for their, for their willingness to do their nation's work and in so many instances to do their state work," said Major General Glenn Curtis.
"It's our job," said Specialist Britney Tillman. "We just do it and we don't really ask questions. It's just what we do."
Some say receiving reminders from loved ones at home can make the time away easier to bear. Specialist Rashon Saffore, a Baton Rouge native, says even the smallest gestures can make a big difference.
"Certain things we can't get over there and it's important that people support us and send care packages and just support us any way possible," said Saffore.
Others say the pride they feel serving their country is a worthwhile trade-off for the time apart from family and friends.
"I love what I do and my family supports what I do and I do this for her and I do this for them and it is a sacrifice but it is a willing sacrifice and the benefit is worth the sacrifice," added Mouton.
The 205th Battalion is expected to remain on home soil for the next several years while the 528th will be the next Louisiana National Guard Engineer Battalion scheduled for overseas deployment sometime in the fall.