NORTHFIELD (AP) -- Six hundred members of the Vermont Army National Guard Sunday formally received the Valorous Unit Award for extraordinary heroism during their service in Afghanistan.

Brigadier General Brian Carpenter, commander of the Vermont Army National Guard, commended his soldiers for their bravery in hostile territory.

"For a unit to be recommended, as you are, takes tremendous leadership," Carpenter told the soldiers gathered at Shapiro Field House at Norwich University in Northfield. "You served in a very hostile area."

The award is the unit equivalent of an individual soldier being awarded the Silver Star, which is is the third-highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. military.

The soldiers received the Valorous Unit Award three years after the Vermont Army National Guard completed its largest deployment since World War II.

The Burlington Free Press reports (http://bfpne.ws/1eyIatn ) that combat medic Sgt. Michael Mulcahy received special recognition during the ceremony.

Mulcahy was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for rescuing injured soldiers during an ambush in the Paktia Province in August 2010 that claimed the lives of soldiers Sgt. Tristan Southworth of Walden and Sgt. Steven Deluzio of Glastonbury, Conn.

Carpenter said Mulcahy led the way through enemy fire to reach the soldiers, including Southworth, who was killed during the battle.


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The newspaper reports that after the ceremony, Mulcahy hugged Southworth's parents. He declined to be interviewed.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott attended the ceremony.