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It’s all in the family at Camp Niantic for the Connecticut National Guard

Connecticut National Guard members and their families enjoy Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead)

Connecticut National Guard members and their families enjoy Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead)

Connecticut Guardsmen salute during a ceremony as part of the Connecticut National Guard's Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. The ceremony was held to honor recent deployers from the Connecticut National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Connecticut Guardsmen salute during a ceremony as part of the Connecticut National Guard's Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. The ceremony was held to honor recent deployers from the Connecticut National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Army Pvt. Thomas Case, assigned to the 192d Engineers Co., and Army Pvt. Mark McCotter, assigned to the 1048th Medium Truck Co., stand during the playing of the National Anthem during a ceremony as part of the Connecticut National Guard's Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Army Pvt. Thomas Case, assigned to the 192d Engineers Co., and Army Pvt. Mark McCotter, assigned to the 1048th Medium Truck Co., stand during the playing of the National Anthem during a ceremony as part of the Connecticut National Guard's Family Day at Camp Niantic, Niantic, Conn. Sept. 10, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tedd Andrews)

Niantic, Conn. (9/10/11) -- It's fair season. No, not the weather per se, but town fairs. The Big E, 4-Town Fair, Durham Fair, the list goes on and on. So why not have a military fair? That seems to be the best way to describe the Connecticut National Guard's Family Day 2011, which took place at Camp Niantic September 10. With all of its vendors, a blow-up obstacle course, rock-climbing wall and even a magician, it was hard to tell the difference between a drill weekend at family day and a day out with the family at a fair.

"My husband has been part of the Guard for almost 20 years and usually we don't go. I didn't realize how much we were missing out," said the wife of a Soldier with her two children. 

This year was different, said 2nd Lt. Paul Carbonell with the 169th at Camp Hartell, referring to his past experiences with Family Day. This was Carbonell's first year at Family Day with kids. Without the kids, said Carbonell, Family Day is more about socializing, but with kids, it's more of an experience for them. "They get to meet friends and other kids from other units," he said.

"I brought my daughter and my parents," said Corlita Leidinger, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"And we are just down here to have fun and spend some time together." Leidinger also said she felt much appreciated that the Guard was recognizing her for hard work and recognizing her family, because without her family's support, she could not do what she does.

The Soldiers and Airmen were recognized during a small ceremony held for their most recent deployments in support of overseas contingency operations.

The ceremony was one of service and sacrifice, according to Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, adjutant general for the state of Connecticut. Since 2006, the year of the last Family Day, 103 units have deployed amounting to roughly 2700 Guardsmen, affecting nearly 10,000 family members.

"A Guardsmen's ability to serve would not be possible without the love and support of [their family]," said Martin.

"We owe our veterans and our military unconditional support," said Richard Blumenthal, U.S. senator for Connecticut.

The ceremony awarded outstanding military families in addition to recognizing Soldiers and Airmen for their tours of duty.

Of the families that deserve honorable mention, are the Tuttle family, who won the Connecticut Army National Guard Family of the Year Award. The Connecticut Air National Guard Family of Year Award went to the Seitz, who are part of the Family Readiness Group. The Army Guard Youth of the Year was Brooke Gilbert, who has so far dedicated six years to the Child and Youth Program. On the Air Guard side, Maricarmen Gonzalez  took home the Youth of the Year Award.