SERVING OUR VETERANS: Our National Guard and Reserve veterans
From our nation’s very beginning, our citizen soldiers have performed a vital role in our independence. From the first shots fired at the Old North Bridge during the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, our “State Militias” have always honorably contributed to our nation’s security, whether in war or peace.
Our North Dakota National Guard and Reserve components are no exception to faithful service to our country. In 1883, Company A, First Regiment was organized in Bismarck, Dakota Territory. When North Dakota became a state in 1889, the North Dakota National Guard was organized into six infantry companies, two cavalry troops and one artillery battery. Eight infantry companies were mobilized for the Spanish American War and the Philippine-American War in 1898. Ten members were awarded the Medal of Honor.
From this point on, our nation’s National Guard and Reserve units have been called up to Federal Service time and time again. They have served with distinction during WWI, WWII, Korea and up to the present, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During these recent wars, North Dakota units have supported these war efforts at a higher rate (based upon population), than almost all other states in our nation. Our 164th Infantry Regiment is probably the most famous. They were the first U.S. Army unit on Guadalcanal in WWII. I will save more information on the history of this unit for a later column.
Unfortunately, like their full-time active duty counterparts, our National Guard and Reserve members’ reputations suffered during the 1960s and 1970s, due to public opinion of the Vietnam War and the stigma they experienced involving sad events like Kent State, inaugural conventions and riots in our larger cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles. Due to no fault of their own, they were labelled as draft dodgers and other degrading names relating to their military involvement. Fortunately, I believe our country has moved past these negative opinions of our National Guard and Reserve units. Their involvement and major contribution to recent wars have no doubt restored their image. It is my hope that we all will continue to find ways to support and honor all those who have served and are serving in our military today, whether they be full-time or part-time soldiers. They have earned this and we as a grateful nation should always find ways to express our appreciation to them for what they have done for us. Let us not rate them as second class soldiers.
As your Pierce County Veterans Service officer, I would like to remind all past and present National Guard and Reserve members that they too are eligible for veterans’ benefits when qualifications for VA programs are met. Please contact me for eligibility requirements or any questions you may have. I am honored to serve you.
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