Calling their service one of great peril and personal sacrifice, Governor Jon S. Corzine on Friday officially welcomed home nearly 3,000 citizen-soldiers from their year-long tour in Iraq with a parade through downtown Trenton and ceremonies following at the Sovereign Bank Arena.
"Today, we are proud to welcome home our heroes one and all," Governor Corzine said. "You have served our state and our nation with dignity, with honor, and with courage. We can only imagine the adversity you faced and the conditions that made your jobs even more difficult. On behalf of all New Jersey's citizens, we thank you for your patriotism and service and we honor the sacrifices of your families. We are fortunate that you have all returned home safely."
This current mobilization of the New Jersey National Guard represented the largest deployment of citizen soldiers since World War II. In June 2008, the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (50th IBCT) was federally activated for a one-year deployment to Iraq. The unit was responsible for the humane treatment of more than 20,000 detainees at several locations in Iraq.
In early January 2009, the 50th IBCT played a pivotal role in the transfer of authority of the Baghdad's International Zone, also known as the Green Zone, back to Iraqi forces. The handoff signified a milestone in American military operations in Iraq and a concrete example of the Iraqi military's ability to provide security and stability in a critical region of the country. During their deployment, Governor Corzine met with many members of the New Jersey National Guard personally during visits to Fort Bliss and Fort Sill, and earlier this year during a trip to Iraq.