Kentucky bids fond farewell to adjutant general

By Sgt. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Members of the Kentucky National Guard command staff present Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini a framed collection of memorabilia from Kentucky units during a retirement ceremony in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini doesn’t officially retire until Dec. 7, 2015. Representatives of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, distinguished guests, along with friends and family members gathered to honor Tonini’s legacy during a retirement ceremony in Louisville, Nov. 21.

After nearly 47 years of service, Tonini leaves behind an unprecedented legacy, not only to the service members he’s led and citizens of the commonwealth of Kentucky, but also to those he’s served alongside.

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Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau presents a flag to Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini as a token of appreciation from NGB during a retirement ceremony for Tonini in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

“On behalf of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the other adjutants general not in attendance, we owe you a great deal of gratitude, we thank you for your distinguished service, both in the state and National level,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“On behalf of us all, thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do.”

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It was an emotional event for Tonini as countless amounts of awards, gifts, and tokens of gratitude were bestowed. As he stood at the podium in the ballroom, he couldn’t help but to pause before addressing the crowd.

“I am so spectacularly proud of what my units, both Army and Air have been able to accomplish. When you talk about Kentucky, I guarantee you they are at the top of any list. I want to look around this room and look upon every single one of your faces and say…” With tears in his eyes he said, “Thank you all.”

After first retiring in 2003 following a stint as the director of the National Guard’s “Your Defenders of Freedom” program at the Pentagon, Tonini was chosen as the 51st adjutant general of the Kentucky Guard.

Just a year later Tonini provided the decisiveness and effectiveness the commonwealth needed to respond to a catastrophic ice storm in 2009. The storm was the largest call-up of Kentucky Guardsmen in state history and it set the tone for the operational tempo of Kentucky’s Soldiers and Airmen.

Thousands of Kentuckians would deploy overseas and remain fully committed to the needs of the commonwealth. Under Tonini’s watch, a new emergency operations center was built, business was expanded at Bluegrass Station and numerous facilities’ construction projects were completed, all benefiting the Guard and the state.

Tonini took on the responsibility of multiple national-level positions during his tenure including president of the Adjutant General Association of the United States where he testified before government officials as a staunch advocate and defender of the National Guard.

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini speaks during his retirement ceremony in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 21, 2015. Tonini concluded his 47-year career by stating that he will always be a Guardsman. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brandy Mort)

While it’s hard to summarize a such a long military career, the Kentucky Guard ensured Tonini received the gratitude of a state for eight years of dedication.

“Forty seven years is a long time and I can tell you this is incredibly difficult for me,” said Tonini. “I can promise you I will stay engaged in the best interest of the Kentucky National Guard, because I will always be a Guardsman.”

 

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