Peter Fitzpatrick spent 12 years as a mechanic at the 180th Fighter Wing base in Swanton. Yesterday, he was a guest there, watching as his son was recognized for his service in Iraq in 2011.
“I am very proud of my son and of the 180th Fighter Wing. They ensure we enjoy the freedom that most people take for granted,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, 53, of Pemberville, Ohio, who retired six years ago with the rank of master sergeant after 26 years in the military.
Mr. Fitzpatrick’s son, Senior Airman Sean Fitzpatrick, 22, of Toledo was one of 102 men and women of the unit who were honored at the base Saturday during an official Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony for their service during overseas deployments in 2010 and 2011. Airman Fitzpatrick served just over 45 days in Iraq in the fall of 2011 at Al Asad Air Base, where he was a maintenance crew chief, he said.
“I feel very proud to be recognized today and I think it is very important that we recognize those who volunteer and sacrifice their personal lives and their civilian careers,” Airman Fitzpatrick said after the ceremony. The 60-minute event was attended by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) and by representatives of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and of U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).
Airman Fitzpatrick went on to say that during his deployment to Iraq “the biggest challenge was being away from my family all that time” and that he communicated with them by email.
His girlfriend, Morgan Hayward, 21, a University of Toledo senior majoring in new media, said that it was the same for her and that she sent him emails at least twice a day, telling him how her day went “even though he wouldn't respond right away.”
Staying apart was also hard for Master Sgt. Amber Williams, 22, of Bowling Green and her family.
A photographer at the base, she was recognized for her service in Kabul, Afghanistan, as an adviser to Afghan public relation officers from May to November of 2011.
“I feel kind of humbled that I was recognized [because] I feel like my family should be the ones to be honored. They had the hard part,” she said.
The honorees received letters of appreciation and a framed Hometown Heroes Salute coin. Adult family members received an engraved pen-and-pencil set. Children received dog tags. And people whom the honorees named as “centers of influence” received logo medallions.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Latta said: “Sometimes when you are deployed [oversees] you may be thinking to yourselves, ‘Does anybody think about us back home?’ Don't ever think that, because you are remembered in our thoughts and our prayers. And we want to make sure — especially from me — that you are always first and foremost. And we want to make sure that you have the best equipment when you are deployed across this great globe.”
Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade, or 419-724-6089