Happy Birthday National Guard

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 13, 1636 is the National Guard’s birthday. On this date 379 years ago, the very first militia regiments were formed. As our forefathers forged new ground, in a country that would become the United States of America, they formed local militias made up of men and boys from their local communities. This is how the idea of the Citizen-Soldier was born. Since that time, the Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict from the Pequot War of 1637 to our more current deployments. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Guardsmen were called up in unprecedented numbers by both their States and the Federal government to provide security at home and to combat terrorism abroad. They fought side by side with their active duty brothers and sisters. They fought and died just the same.

The National Guardsmen and women, long known as “weekend warriors,” are so much more than that. Besides their dual state and federal missions, our Guardsmen and women are diverse. There are those that are active duty, others that are more traditional Guard or m-dayers; some deploy, many go away for trainings, and still others spend time apart from their families just like their active duty counterparts. Some live in their communities and drill there, others drill states away. Some deploy with units, others deploy as individual augmentees. The Guard’s motto “Always ready, always there” is clearly so much more than just a slogan.

National Guard families also serve. Although it’s true that many of these families stay in their same communities, which offer support and familiarity – there is still the added strain of not having the support and help from those who understand. Often, National Guard families are far away from any military installations, and the help offered there, when their service member is away. That sense of a military family, that sense of community is not there. Often, neighbors and members of their local/civilian community are unaware that there is a military family among them and that they are going through a deployment or separation. This can be isolating. National Guard families need the support of their community. They are holding down the home front but often without the supports inherent to life on a military base.

My own family has been Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve. The sacrifices for each are the same. The wins and the losses are the same. The Hooah is the same. Each experience of deployment and separation is the same. The difference lies in the level of support and the availability of support. Active duty has an entire system of support for the service member and for the family. It is easily available in their community. The Guard and Reserve also have their own support, but it is not as robust or as easy to access. As you can see, being a National Guard family definitely has its challenges – but it has amazing rewards too. We get to have our service member home more often. We live life in the civilian world and in the military world. We get the best of both! In the end, it’s about what you make of this life.

Though the missions have changed, one thing remains the same: We are all one military family. In the end, in battle, there is no difference between Active Duty and National Guard. They all wear the same uniform. They all fight the same fight. They all serve on the same team. Their families all miss them when they are gone. So, on this the National Guard’s birthday, let’s remember that we are more alike than we are different. Those early militias who left their families behind to fight and in some cases die, are the same as those who fight today. Let’s honor their service and sacrifices both at home and abroad today and every day. Happy Birthday National Guard, thank you for all you do to support the mission and our country.