I guess it’s appropriate that the 372nd birthday of the National Guard passed quietly and without fanfare on December 13th, because the National Guard does its duty in the same manner every day – quietly, and without fanfare. But its actions speak volumes.
Its soldiers lead double lives. On one hand, they are civilians. They work in civilian jobs and contribute their skills and time to making our country strong. They are the people next door. But when the nation needs them they pick up their weapons, put on their uniforms, and serve. They are the true manifestation of the citizen-soldier.
They serve overseas – in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever the nation needs them. And they have proven to be fierce warriors in combat.
They also serve at home, showing their compassionate side when disaster strikes. They protect. They fight forest fires. They search for victims. They provide aid and comfort to those whose lives have been turned upside down.
And they have done that for over three centuries. Born out of necessity in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, the Guard is one of the oldest military organizations in the world. According to the National Guard Bureau, “The Swiss Guards, who protect the Vatican are older (1512), and so is London’s Honorable Artillery Company (1537), a unit of citizen-soldiers which is the oldest in the British Army. Amazingly, considering how much older Britain is than the United States, only one other regiment of the British Army, the Royal Scots (1633), predates our National Guardâ€™s oldest units.”
Their motto: “Always ready. Always there.” For 372 years.
On this last day of 2008, I can’t think of a better way to end the year than salute – and thank – the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard. And although it is two weeks late in coming, let me add a heartfelt Happy Birthday.
You are our heroes of the week.