EAST GRANBY, Conn. (WTNH) — A special welcome home ceremony commenced on Saturday for Connecticut Air National Guardsmen deployed to the Horn of Africa.

More than 150 men and women were recognized for their service.  

The ceremony happened inside the main hangar at the base. The airmen and women were honored in front of the rest of the unit and their families. 

They are a part of the 103rd Maintenance and Operations, known as the “Flying Yankees.” They were deployed on a foggy morning in August and and were away for four months to support operations in Djibouti.

“Thank you for your unwavering commitment to your country, your state and the simple but powerful idea of freedom that our forefathers so eloquently outlined in our constitution,” said Brigadier General Gerald McDonald while addressing the unit. “Standing in front of me is not a group of average people. It’s a group who answers the call every time they’re asked because they know how fragile freedom is and that it hangs on the balance of our actions as a nation every day.” 

The 103rd specializes in flying and maintaining C-130s aircraft. Some were awarded medals and another group was honored for their quick work, fixing 16 propellers in just five days. 

“It was just a tremendous effort on their part, and I was just so proud and moved, like my heart actually started pounding for them,” said Jennifer Artiaco, Maintenance Officer in Charge. “[I am] so grateful I had such a profound and awesome team.”

What made Saturday even more special was the big reveal of a decorated aircraft, celebrating 100 years of the “Flying Yankees” serving the nation. It was a reminder if how many men and women dedicated their lives to freedom.