“This is not about one person. It is about every person.” Sagen Maddalena, Groveland


Spc Sagen Maddalena accepts a commemorative plaque from her hometown of Groveland for her service to our country in the US Army and representing the United States of America at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in August 2021).

You brought us your fabulous smile, your amazing stories, your pride of our Country, and your positive message for young people and well, for our not-so-young people, too. Thank you, Sagen, for enjoying every minute of your Homecoming Tour. So very many were touched, honored, and pleased to meet you. We loved your spirit of teamwork in competition, like helping those of us who are less skilled figure out how to take the safety off a paintball gun or aim it from a prone position. Or helping some of us hit our targets when all our shots seemed to be going awry.


Throughout her homecoming tour (also an official US Army recruiting tour), Sagen reiterated this message, “This is not about one person. It is about every person. Each one of us plays a role in what makes our community so special.” She credits her parents, her coaches, her mentors, her 4H and California Grizzlies teammates, and every member of her community who plays a part of her journey. “The clerks at MarVal, our firefighters, our healthcare workers, our teachers, every person who is here today is what it takes for our community to thrive.”

So many people stepped up to make Operation Homecoming a weekend to remember. There are so many people to thank and so many people who turned out to be part of this celebration.

Thank you to Murray Smith for your beautiful commemorative art piece, to Tonie Kiefer, Lydia Comacho Dugan, Christian de Ryss, Patricia Epp, and Shirley Horn for decking the town; to our Tenaya elementary and Tioga High school children who asked a million questions and listened to every word of wisdom this young woman had to offer. To all who decked your vehicles for the convoy. Thank you to our businesses and organizations who hosted Sagen in so many different and meaningful ways. To our 49er Festival sponsors who turned your sites towards welcoming Sagen home, to all our local businesses and individuals who donated prizes and purchased raffle tickets, and to our now three-time Honorary Mayor Johanna Richter (ROOFBB) for selling a boatload of raffle tickets that support our community.

Thank you to our media partners who helped us promote Sagen’s homecoming tour, to the Hilltop Musical Kids, “Stilts”, Ponch & the Saloon Girls, and the Pine Cone Singers for your wonderful entertainment. Thank you to the Army National Guard for bringing the Humvee, the California Highway Patrol for leading a safe and sane convoy, the Tuolumne County Sheriff, and to SFC George Norton, USAMU and Michelle Lunato USAMU PR representative for your wonderful photography and public affairs outreach.

Thank you to all our active military and our veterans who serve our country and our communities; to you who came out to meet Sagen and to be honored for your service, including the Tuolumne Veterans Military Museum (Steve Wilson, Curator) and the 9/11 War on Global Terrorism Memorial (Frank Smith and Aaron Rasmussen), and AVOW Magazine/Christina Wilkinson and CalVets Dept. of Women’s Affairs, along with Groveland Outdoor Zone for sponsoring the paintball competition, and AVOW Magazine and ROOFBB for hosting Quiet Time in honor of our own Dar Brown who dedicated years of her life to sending care packages to our troops overseas.

And thank you to everyone else who we wish we could list because so many more people played a part in making Operation Homecoming an event to remember. You know who you are! Thank you all for the role you play every day in making us all…Groveland Proud!

Check out the US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Operation Homecoming: Groveland photo gallery and Enjoy!