Thank you, and be safe

Published 9:02 pm Friday, July 10, 2015

When folks think of America’s armed forces, it’s most often the full-time soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who come to mind, and those service members are surely due all the respect and admiration we can muster for the courage and commitment it takes to protect our nation from those who would harm it.

But those men and women who serve part-time in the National Guard deserve at least as much respect. They toil along at regular jobs in all walks of life, knowing that they’ll be called away from home for a period of training every year, knowing they can be called away at a moment’s notice to provide aid and comfort during times of local or national disasters and knowing — especially since 9/11 — that they could be called away for overseas duty, placed right in the heat of battle, at any time.

Overseas is exactly where the 98-strong Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in Suffolk, is headed soon. The unit departed Suffolk on Thursday for three weeks of pre-deployment preparation at Fort Pickett. Members will then return to their homes until Sept. 8, when they will head to Fort Bliss, Texas, for an additional month of training. From there, they will go to an as-yet undisclosed location in Southwest Asia for a deployment that could last from one to two years.

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As with the nation’s full-time service members, the deploying members of the National Guard will be leaving behind husbands and wives, children, parents, neighbors, friends and other family members. Unlike their full-time counterparts, they will also leave behind their regular jobs, putting careers on hold in order to serve their nation.

Outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Rusty McGuire, gave the soldiers a pep talk during a short ceremony at the armory on Thursday.

“Your neighbors, your pastors, your school teachers, they all sleep in peace tonight because of every one of you,” he said. “We have to leave our families behind. You now have to focus on each other for the next year. The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war.”

We wish Troop B and the other units that will join this deployment godspeed in their journeys and God’s grace in their assignments. And to their families and employers, we say a hearty “Thank you!”