Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, along with four other Soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard, participated in Latvia’s Independence Day Celebration, held on Nov. 18. This year Latvia celebrated 95 years since its declaration of independence from the Russian empire.

Maj. Gen. Vadnais and other international officials participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Latvian Freedom Memorial.

The celebration included a Pass in Review conducted by Latvia’s Chief of Defense, a speech by the president of Latvia, the playing of the Latvian national anthem and a 21-gun salute.

Michigan Army Guard Soldiers carried the flags of the United States and the state of Michigan through downtown Riga, the capital of Latvia. Several other countries including Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, Estonia and Sweden participated in the historic event.

The four additional Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard are Maj. William Humes, Master Sgt. Timothy Magoon, Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Menard and Sgt. Ted Olson. Three of the participating Soldiers had previously deployed with Latvian Soldiers to Afghanistan as part of an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, so this trip served as a reunion of sorts for those Soldiers.

“This was my third trip to Latvia,” said Humes. “I have always been impressed by my Latvian counterparts so being asked to participate in this ceremony was an especially high honor.”

This year marks the 20th year of the State Partnership Program between the Michigan National Guard and the Latvian military. Additional operations are planned between the Michigan Guard and Latvian forces in the coming months.