VALPARAISO | Residents gathered Saturday in Central Park Plaza to honor the Indiana National Guard's 713th Engineers Company, as well as local police, firefighters and first responders.
Sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Friends of Folds of Honor Foundation, the event was designed to welcome home the 713th and recognize local servicemen and women.
Bob Carnagey, local host of the Friends of Folds of Honor, said the 713th returned from Afghanistan in September 2012, after a year of clearing the roads of bombs and booby traps.
Six of its 93 members were killed and another seriously injured in two separate incidents.
Carnagey said the company had not been officially welcomed home by the community, and he wanted to provide that.
“Our goal tonight is not to focus on the tragedy,” he said. “Our goal is to welcome these men home.”
Spiro Olympidis, a former member of the 713th, welcomed the crowd, followed by remarks by Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.
The program also included a performance by the Joliet American Legion band and the singing of the national anthem by Porter County Sheriff David Lain.
A flag line was assembled with members of the Indiana Patriot Guard.
Money raised from the event supports the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships to the children and spouses of those killed or disabled in the line of duty, Carnagey said.
Catherine Haggerty, of Valparaiso, wore a T-shirt with the words, “Proud Daughter of a Vietnam Veteran,” as she passed out programs for the event.
Her father, Roland Brandt, died earlier this year, and her involvement with the Folds of Honor is something he would have wanted, she said.
“We wanted to do something to give back,” she said.