U.S. Army Staff Sergeants Ryan Thrift and Joseph Shoemake, recently home from Iraq, were honored by the Clermont County Commissioners July 30.
“It feels really great to be home,” Thrift said at the ceremony. “The attention from the community has been wonderful.”
Sgt. Thrift, 29, has served two tours of duty in Iraq since enlisting in the Army after graduating from Milford High School in 1997, first in 2003 and again in 2007/2008.
He is what is known as a combat engineer in the 478th Engineers, doing route clearance missions, one of the most precarious jobs in the Army today, he said.
"I have both good and bad experiences in my military career," Thrift said. "It has not always been easy, but the amazing feeling of brotherhood that you get can only be equaled by the amount of support that I have received from home, from my friends, and by the people in the community."
When he flew into the U.S. last month, Thrift recalls an emotional scene at the airport, being welcomed home by USO members, family and friends, and even strangers who just wanted to shake his hand and welcome him home.
"For all those who have served and sacrificed, and for all those still there today, I am extremely grateful," Thrift said. "It is good to be home."
Staff Sergeant Joseph Shoemake, 43, is a decorated soldier who is also glad to be home.
His active duty military career started in 1983, when he enlisted in the Army upon graduating from Williamsburg High School in 1983.
He did two years in Germany before joining the 478th engineers in 1987, and has held the position as construction and equipment mechanic for the last 23 years.
Respectfully known as the "Wrench Bender," Shoemake, in his second tour of duty in Iraq this year, was a maintenance platoon sergeant in charge of 38 personnel and more than 400 vehicles.
"I am in charge of mechanics and repairing equipment," Shoemake said. "When vehicles get banged up or break down, I fix them."
He is very grateful to the commissioners for the recognition and looks forward to now spending time with his wife Denise and raising their seven kids.