Admiration for Guardsman continues to grow

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2005

There is no doubt we have always respected the men and women of the Alabama National Guard. Yet as we watch them respond to the threats toAlabamaand the nation, our appreciation and admiration for these citizen-soldiers has increased as well. It is important that we look for ways to help those who serve during this difficult time.

With over 13,000 troops,Alabamahas the sixth largest contingent of National Guard troops in the nation. Our Guard is being deployed more often and for longer stretches than any time in our state’s history, in roles that are familiar to us, and in jobs that are not often thought of as the responsibility of the National Guard.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many members of our National Guard are helping to rebuild destroyed communities, getting vital rescue supplies to those impacted by the storms, and restoring law and order in areas that were devastated.

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Currently more than 1,300 members ofAlabama’s National Guard are deployed around the gulf coast inAlabama,Mississippi,Louisiana, andTexas. These troops are conducting numerous operations, from search and rescue to engineering duties. Called up and deployed within days, our Guard has been effective in helping fellow Americans threatened by the storms. The response to the Katrina and Rita emergencies is the largest and most comprehensive in the history of the Alabama National Guard.

While some are rebuilding the coast, others are fightingAmerica’s enemies around the globe. Since 2001, over 10,000 Alabama National Guardsmen have been called to active duty in response to overseas threats. At this moment, 1,200 Alabama Guardsmen are deployed inAfghanistan,IraqandGermany.Alabamasends her sons and daughters to defend this country through our National Guard at a higher rate than almost any other state in the union.

When called to action, Guard members must leave their jobs and families behind for a period of up to two years, deployments tough on soldiers, and often tougher on those left behind. These individuals risk their lives in the name of freedom and they deserve any support we can offer. When an individual is deployed in a dangerous environment, the last thing he or she should have to worry about is the financial situation of those back home, in case the unfortunate should occur.

Last legislative session, the House Democratic Caucus sponsored a bill that would require the state to provide $250,000 in life insurance to any member of the Alabama National Guard who is deployed overseas in support of our country. Similar legislation has been passed in other states and appears to be working effectively.

Unfortunately last year’s bill died in a logjam in the Alabama Senate, but we plan to bring it again this year. We want to reaffirm our commitment to supporting those who risk their lives in the name of freedom. The least our state government can do for these heroes is to provide financial security for their loved ones.

You can do your part to help these brave souls and tell your state representative to support the Military Insurance bill. It will come up in the next Legislative session, and with diligence we can pass it and provide the safety net for Guard families.

There are other things you can do to help out our citizen soldiers. Many Guard members are our fellow teachers, electricians, doctors, police officers and nurses. Hundreds of employers work hard to balance schedules and customer demands with their employees’ Guard duty. Support the businesses and organizations that actively support employees who are Guard members.

Care packages are another way Alabamians can show support to those deployed overseas. In contrast to past deployments when packages could be sent to “Any Service Member,” packages must now be sent to individual service members by name. For security reasons, National Guard offices cannot release the names of individuals in their units, but there many local churches and clubs that have names of service members. Our troops will benefit greatly from the love and generosityAlabamacitizens show through care packages.

We can be proud of the job that the Alabama National Guard is doing right now. We must do everything we can to show our appreciation for these fine men and women.