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Fort Drum hosts ceremony for returning 10th Mountain Division soldiers

Julia Botero
Soldiers participate in a homecoming ceremony at Fort Drum.

Fort Drum held a ceremony Monday to commemorate the 10th Mountain Division's 13-year involvement in Afghanistan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a last minute appearance, joining Secretary of the Army John McHugh and other state and national leaders who were there.

The 10th Mountain Division was the first to be deployed to Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Within the last year and a half, every brigade of the 10th Mountain Division has been deployed to the country.

Yesterday's ceremony at Fort Drum welcomed home all of them. The last to leave Afghanistan - the 10th Sustainment Brigade and the Division Headquarters  - are now on their way home. It will be the first time in more than a year all brigades of the 10th Mountain Division will be reunited.

Cuomo welcomed the troops home and commended the division for its legacy.

"Even before Iraq and Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division was the most deployed force in the Army. Iraq,  Operation Desert Storm, Florida to fight Hurricane Andrew, Haiti, Somalia, Kosovo, you have done it all," Cuomo said. "From defending this nation, to peacekeeping, to helping in times of natural disaster. There is nothing you haven't done to step up and answer the call of duty."

Credit Julia Botero / WRVO
Members of Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division were the first to go to Afghanistan and the last to leave.

McHugh commented on the resiliency of the military for helping to make the world and nation safer.

"And because of men and women like each and every one of you men and women of the 10th Mountain Division, the people of Afghanistan have a special gift," McHugh explained. "It's the gift of a chance, a chance for freedom."

In September, Cuomo visited Afghanistan for the first time. He spoke about his experience meeting a soldier in a hospital who had lost both his legs. Cuomo said while the soldier was telling the story of his injury, he began to cry.

"I thought to myself, he is crying because of the pain he feels for what he went through, for being away from his family," Cuomo said. "He stopped at one point, and I said what is the greatest pain you feel? And he said the greatest pain is that I'm not with my comrades, I'm not with my unit, I left them alone in Afghanistan. You can talk about loyalty, you can talk about  courage. What a beautiful testament not only to the Army, but to the 10th Mountain Division."

Since February, the division headquarters worked as advisers to the Afghan military and police. They also provided security during Afghanistan's presidential elections and helped close more than 20 military bases.
McHugh was the local congressman for the North Country, while many of these deployments were happening.

"As some of you may guess, as Secretary of the Army I have various opportunities to take part in a variety of ceremonies across our Army," McHugh said. "And no matter who I visit I'm not expected to have favorites, but I would note that since this is the only division post where I can readily drive from my home you are free to guess where my heart truly lies."

McHugh says the war in Afghanistan will forever mark the history of Fort Drum.

"This is really a time to reflect on what has been a generational journey," McHugh explained. "A journey over twenty years that has taken us through two wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and now a second in Iraq, but it has taken us to a place where we have a new beginning for both of those nations."

Two 10th Mountain Division soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their actions in Afghanistan.