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AURORA, Colo. — After 43 years of service, the Colorado National Guard’s leader, Major Gen. H. Michael Edwards, was honorably retired from the U.S. Air Force.

In a ceremony at Buckley Air Force Base on Sunday, Edwards was officially given his retirement orders, the Distinguished Service Medal, and numerous other certificates, honors and accolades to commemorate his service.

Edwards graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1973 and went on to become a fighter pilot. He joined the Colorado Air National Guard in 1980 and was appointed as the adjutant general in 2007.

“When he entered the air force academy I would have been 2 years old so I can’t imagine a life of service over that great of a span of time,” Command Sgt. Major Bill Woods said.

One of Edwards’ biggest accomplishments during his time leading Colorado’s National Guard was successfully deploying soldiers and airmen to assist in safety and cleanup operations during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires in 2012, and the historic flooding in Boulder Canyon in 2013.

Originally from a farming community in Nebraska, his fellow officers say as he rose through the ranks, he never lost sight of his roots.

“His call sign is “Farmer” and that really talks a lot about him and what he does. He’s from the community, a very humble background and he has used that to lead forces throughout his entire career,” Woods said.

More than 400 people attended the retirement ceremony, including military members from Jordan and Israel.

“It’s not what you’ve done, it’s who you’ve affected,” Woods said. “And this is really that story. All of these people having been impacted by Gen. Edwards’ service.

The list includes the man slated to take his place as the next adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard.

“He was actually my first flight commander here and so throughout the years as a leader and a mentor, as you take care of junior airmen and soldiers, he was one of those people who always took care of me,” Major Gen. Michael Loh said.

As the formalities came to a close, the crowd gave a final standing ovation to its Colorado hero.

“May God continue to bless this great United States of America. Thank you very much,” Edwards said in closing.

Loh will officially assume the post of adjutant general on April 10.