National Guardsmen: The Veterans Next Door

National Guardsmen protect our communities and help us recover after disaster
Photo by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash

“Veterans’ Day” conjures up images of American flags flying high, warriors in camo and helmets carrying heavy backpacks of gear, and decorated soldiers of our grandparents’ generation smiling and waving during red, white and blue hometown parades.

These men and women have certainly worked and sacrificed greatly to preserve our freedoms and defend us against harm, and deserve our thanks. This Veterans’ Day, remember to also thank the soldiers who continue working to defend democracy, maintain our infrastructure and help us recover stateside: the men and women of the National Guard.

Our National Guard grew out of the first militias formed in St. Augustine and Massachusetts in the early 1600s to defend settlements and protect resources in the face of intruders and storms. National Guard members are soldiers in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard, the reserve sections of the Army and Air Force, respectively. Each state plus Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia has a National Guard unit. Each unit is dually controlled by state and federal government. They primarily serve their home state or territory but can be called up to serve in other locations or overseas if the U.S. is in active war.

Most National Guard members work full-time in a civilian job and serve in the Guard part-time, though some work full-time in positions that keep their Guard units running smoothly. All members are required to “drill,” or train, with their unit one weekend per month, as well as participate in a two-week-long training once per year. They train to be combat-ready in case they are called up to serve in active conflict, but they also train to coordinate and carry out disaster relief. They rebuild roads, bridges and other structures. They distribute food and medical supplies. In addition, National Guardsmen help with large-scale search-and-rescue efforts, training exercises with foreign U.S. allies, and state security needs. Georgia’s National Guard was tapped to help patrol venues during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and surrounding areas.

When hurricanes Florence and Michael came ashore earlier this year, National Guardsmen (and women) were activated in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas to help clear roads, move supplies, distribute food and water to residents, and assist with medical rescues after the storms.

They perform more romantic tasks, too: The chaplain of my husband’s National Guard unit married us in 2014!

Georgia, home to about 13,500 guardsmen, has the 6th-highest guardsman population among U.S. states. It’s likely there is a member of the National Guard living in your neighborhood, working in your community and raising children alongside yours. Because National Guardsmen often belong to a unit that drills in a different city than their home, it’s also likely you know a parent who plays the roles of both Mom and Dad while their soldier is away.  

This parent might not be a veteran of the United States Military, but with a spouse serving in the Guard they are a veteran of:

  • Overseeing all the household chores, meals, and schedules single-handedly,
  • Being the sole chauffeur to and from school, activities, and sometimes urgent care,
  • Being more aware of the clock, and not only what time they must leave work to make it to pick up in time, but how long it has been since their soldier left,
  • Being the parent who must take off work, even if it isn’t their turn, to stay home with a sick child (and figure out how to make up their work later),
  • Experiencing the joy of significant firsts in their child’s life and the simultaneous guilt that their soldier missed it,
  • Being the first one up and the last to go to bed each day their soldier is away.

This Veterans’ Day, in addition to giving thanks to those who serve active duty, thank the soldiers and families serving our country through the National Guard. Tip your hat to the soldier who gives up his or her weekend with family to drill with their unit Friday night through Sunday evening. Throw another meatball on the stove and invite their spouse and children over for dinner Saturday night. Offer to come over and watch her kids for an afternoon during annual training. (By the second week, we need a nap!) Ask a guardsman’s child what their mom or dad does when they go away for the weekend or for a few extra days when called to serve. They’ll tell you how proud they are of Mom or Dad and how they miss them, but they know their parent is helping others.

Thank you to all veterans who have served or are currently serving our country, and thank you to all veteran parents who serve their families!

Want to know more about parenting as a military family? Check out the City Moms Blog Network’s Military Moms’ Blog.