U.S. Representative Tim Bishop expressed his gratitude for the sacrifice and courage of the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing by inviting a distinguished member of the outfit to accompany him to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last week.
Staff Sergeant Christopher Petersen of Commack, a member of the ANG based at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton—and a “local hero,” Mr. Bishop said—made the trek to the nation’s capital to hear the president’s speech on January 28.
He said he was honored to attend the event and sit among the nation’s leaders.
“Additionally, I would like to thank Congressman Bishop for this opportunity and am humbled to represent service members at this State of the Union,” Staff Sgt. Petersen said in a written statement. He could not be reached for comment this week regarding his recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Despite his modest nature, the invitation was only the most recent of honors presented to Staff Sgt. Petersen, a who was a vital part of a high-risk rescue mission in Afghanistan on December 10, 2012.
He and five other members of the ANG’s elite 103rd Rescue Squadron, who are stationed at the Westhampton base, were called in to rescue four critically wounded soldiers, three American and one Afghan. The responding soldiers had to dodge heavy fire as they crossed an open field to reach the wounded and carry them back to safety.
In December, the six ANG members—Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom of Hampton Bays, Staff Sergeant Matthew F. Zimmer of Westhampton, Captain Ronnie Maloney of Middle Island, Technical Sergeant Anthony Yusup of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Staff Sergeant James Dougherty of Rocky Point and Staff Sgt. Petersen—received the Bronze Star for Valor for their bravery and selflessness during the rescue mission.
Staff Sgt. Petersen was also named the 2013 National Guardsman of the Year by the United Service Organizations this past fall.
He graduated from Commack High School in 2003, and the University of Notre Dame in 2007. He left a job in the private financial sector to join the ANG in 2008.
“It is truly an honor to be in the company of an individual like Staff Sergeant Christopher Petersen, someone who has the courage to place the lives of his fellow soldiers above his own in order to ensure they can return to their families,” Mr. Bishop said. “I would like to extend my gratitude to him and to all of the members of our Armed Forces, past and present, for the invaluable job they do to defend our country and protect our way of life.”