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Guard members honored at Retiree Plaque dedication ceremony

Retired Tech. Sgt. Earl J. Hartlage Jr. (right) finds his name on a plaque honoring retirees at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The plaque was unveiled during a ceremony held for more than 50 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing who retired in 2014 after serving for 20 or more years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Retired Tech. Sgt. Earl J. Hartlage Jr. (right) finds his name on a plaque honoring retirees at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The plaque was unveiled during a ceremony held for more than 50 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing who retired in 2014 after serving for 20 or more years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Gary Dunlap and Retired Chief Master Sgt. Lori F. Zinsmeister unveil a plaque bearing the names of more than 50 Airmen who retired from the 123rd Airlift Wing last year during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015.  The annual unveiling celebrates Airmen who served for 20 or more years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Gary Dunlap and Retired Chief Master Sgt. Lori F. Zinsmeister unveil a plaque bearing the names of more than 50 Airmen who retired from the 123rd Airlift Wing last year during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The annual unveiling celebrates Airmen who served for 20 or more years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, addresses a crowd of Airmen, friends and family during a ceremony honoring retirees from the 123rd Airlift Wing at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015.  During the ceremony, a black granite plaque was unveiled that listed the names of more than 50 Airmen who retired during 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, addresses a crowd of Airmen, friends and family during a ceremony honoring retirees from the 123rd Airlift Wing at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. During the ceremony, a black granite plaque was unveiled that listed the names of more than 50 Airmen who retired during 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 50 former members of the Kentucky Air National Guard were honored here April 18 when a plaque bearing their names was unveiled in front of the 123rd Airlift Wing's Lt. Gen. John B. Conaway Headquarters Building.

The black granite plaque is the newest addition to a monument that honors Airmen who have completed 20 or more years of service and retired from the Kentucky Air National Guard, dating all the way back to the unit's inception in 1947.

This year's ceremony celebrated 52 retirees for the year 2014, along with one from 2013 and one from 2005.

"I've been doing this a number of years, and it's a grand event," said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky's adjutant general. "Your names engraved upon these plaques bear testament to the fact that you're part of our family. Welcome home."

Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, also spoke at the ceremony, addressing a crowd of dozens of retirees, family members and Airmen wishing to pay their respects.

"I want to say thank you to the retirees here today for your service," Grass said. "Less than one percent of our population serves in uniform, but it's you all who have served 20-plus years and who have grown the leaders behind you. You've got to be extremely proud of that."

These annual plaque unveilings are made possible through donations from the non-profit Kentucky Air National Guard Retiree Group Inc.