They came home months ago, but Saturday thousands of Panhandle National Guardsmen and Reservists received an official welcome home celebration from top state officials.
Bay County is hosting just one of five military tributes being held statewide. They fought to free the people of Iraq and preserve our own freedoms and liberties. Now, around 3,000 troops and their families are being honored in a special "Salute to Florida Heroes" celebration.
"It feels nice that people appreciate what you do and what others have done before," says Specialist Nick Williams.
Thousands of troops, families, politicians and patriots came out to Bay County's "Salute to Florida's Heroes" Celebration. It is the state's way of recognizing these brave men.
"It's important to say thank you. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice. Many have lost loved ones, and I think it's important for the state to say how much we value what they've done for us," says Lt. Governor Toni Jennings.
Twenty-one-year-old Robert Wise is just one soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice. His mother says she couldn't have gotten through these last few without the soldiers who once stood by her son.
"Every single one of these guys has given me love, support, and comfort. I don't even have to say I need anything, and they're there. I love every single one of them," says Tami Wise.
And it's the love and support conveyed in tributes of this kind that makes these men proud to be American soldiers. Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami were also chosen by Gov. Bush to host the "Salute to Florida Heroes" Tribute.
Lt. Governor Jennings says Panama City was on the top of the list, because of the large military community here.