LEXINGTON, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lexington-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were honored by the Lynchburg Police Department April 4, 2021, for their support to civilian law enforcement during protests in Lynchburg in June 2020.
Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema presented a flag flown June 9, 2020, over the headquarters building of the Lynchburg Police Department to Lt. Col. Jim Tierney, commander of 1st Battalion, who in turn presented it to Capt. Petrus Knight, commander of Bravo Company.
“You lived out the National Guard mission by defending the homeland,” Zuidema said. “I can’t imagine a more fulfilling mission than ensuring our citizens are protected and safe.”
He said he personally felt safe in Lynchburg having the National Guard there, and he thanked the unit for all of the help.
“National Guard Soldiers are an outstanding example of what it truly means to serve our community. There was no playbook for this.”
Knight said the long-overdue ceremony had been difficult to coordinate “between the capital response and the police chief’s schedule, it just hasn’t worked out yet.” He said the day was special to him since his very first day of command was when he was activated for support to the LPD, and the flag was presented on his last drill as the commander. Knight said he could not be prouder of the Soldiers and their dedication during the mission.
During the 10 days that the unit was in Lynchburg, they were called out almost every day to help support the police and local authorities. Knight said from the moment Bravo Company arrived in Lynchburg, they helped secure the police department, local monuments and government buildings. “Our men firmly believe in the constitutional right to protest, and support it. Our mission was to support local authorities in the event those protests became violent, which our Soldiers did, admirably.”
“I’ve never seen a local authority honor a unit like this,” he said. “This is the Army National Guard, defense of the homeland is what we do. This mission is squarely within our scope. [We] go out and help support our local civil authorities where there is a threat of violence. There was something special and different about supporting your local community, compared to deploying overseas."
Knight said these were their brothers and sisters, both actively in the protests and within the community.
"During these times of upheaval and unrest, everyone is looking for a way to bring stability and peace to our nation," he said. "At the time, many people were looking for opportunities to help, we are fortunate enough that we have the honor of serving in the Guard and thus had a venue to contribute. We did not see this as a job, but rather as truly having the ability to serve when our nation needs it most.”
Knight has been on five deployments but said “there was something special and different about supporting your local community.”
Spc. Jonathan Montiel lived in Lynchburg at the time of the riots and was excited for the opportunity to support his local community.
“Being from Lynchburg and actually assisting the city that you are living in ... I dropped everything so that I could help,” Montiel said.
Spc. Joshua Pack, a former resident of the Lynchburg area, loved working with the police department.
“They have been absolutely amazing to us,” Pack said. They were great.”
Reflecting on the unit award he said “it felt incredible to be honored” and was just so thankful he was able to help.
Upon conclusion of the ceremony, the incased flag that was given a place of honor above the drill floor main entrance.