BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) - Leadership from Pacific Northwest commands held a Heroes' Welcome appreciation ceremony at Jackson Park Community Center in Bremerton, Wash., Nov. 4.

The ceremony recognized both individual augmentee (IA) Sailors and their families for their continued sacrifice and support.

Guest speaker, Commander, Navy Region Northwest Rear Adm. Douglass Biesel, spoke about the sacrifices service members and their families make.

"In the areas of Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Iraq there are about 15,000 Sailors deployed; none of those Sailors expected to ever serve in that kind of environment," said Biesel. "And out of those 15,000 around 10,000 fall into the individual augmentee category, deploying on their own. Unlike most of us that deploy in groups, it's the individual augmentee that are left behind&ellips;many times it's the individual augmentee and their families, I find, who face the toughest challenges."

Biesel also said he has a great appreciation for the families and the individual augmentees for what they go through and for Fleet Family Support and ombudsmen for their support in this effort

"I applaud all the families, especially those with loved ones who are currently deployed, and we celebrate the safe return of all those who are here tonight," said Biesel.

Sailors and their spouses received appreciation letters and a Quilt of Valor from their command for the sacrifices they've made. Spouses of those currently deployed or are about to deploy also received recognition letters.

"At times during my husband's deployment I felt very alone and overlooked, but tonight changed my feelings about the time he spent in Baghdad, and the Command's support for IAs," said Monica Leibrant Fischer, wife of Lt. Benjamin Fischer. "The individual attention given to each returning or future IA in the room was more than we expected from such an event. The three vignettes were great. They conveyed such a personal and heartwarming perspective of each individual's service and their family's sacrifice. I felt a great sense of camaraderie in the room with other families and strongly recommend those who have served or will serve, to attend future Heroes' Welcomes."

Fischer returned from his GSA in Baghdad, Iraq last year at the end of April, but didn't make last year's welcome; his department master chief at Trident Training Facility suggested that he attend this one.

"I was a little leery of having to put on the old Army Combat Uniform one more time, but when I arrived and saw many folks wearing their "NARMY" gear, I felt much more comfortable," said Fischer. "The support from my command was great; I saw both my executive officer and commanding officer there. I think this is a great event which really lets IAs know how much the rest of the local Navy leadership appreciates their efforts and their families' sacrifices."

The ceremony was followed by an IA Appreciation Reception held in the Fellowship hall with gifts.

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