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Guard a vital part of our national defense

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
If you are not from a military family, the National Guard isn't something you spend a lot of time thinking about, or at least I never did.
They were always just there. They did what they did, and the most I ever thought about it was seeing them in a convoy, going here or there, doing whatever it was that they did.
Those days are gone forever, for two reasons.
One is the war on terror, in which the National Guard has been an incredible resource for our nation. Here are these regular people, who work like the rest of us in regular jobs, with regular families.
Then one day the nation needs them, and they go. It isn't like they anticipated being deployed for months at a time when they signed on. But they go.
Suddenly, they are more like regular service personnel, leaving their families, missing weddings and births and birthdays, putting their regular lives on hold.
These men and women have no idea what they will find at their jobs when they return. They will probably still have jobs, but will they be the same? How long will it take for them to catch up? What about the person who has been filling that void while they are gone? It has to be a frightening thing to deal with, all that uncertainty on top of missing your family.
Then there is the pay. Military pay is often far less for Guardsmen than what they earn in their civilian jobs. Their families are hit with that double whammy, on top of missing the loved one who is gone to some place far away, perhaps for a long time.
And the second reason they will no longer be a postscript on my conscious is that this is no game. I will never say someone is playing soldier or is a weekend warrior ever again.
That is because I have seen firsthand what they go through to get ready to go to some far off place and keep me free and safe here at home.
It is cold at night and hot during the day. The food is marginal at best, and they must do a good job, because if they don't, someone dies.
The live ammunition being fired does not care if it is targeting enlisted or guard. Terrorists only want to kill Americans. And in those hot spots the Guard gets sent to, the ones who fight against freedom, who want to keep things the way they are, those cowards would far rather attack a support unit than a combat force.
But that will yield some unpleasant surprises, if they run into the Guard I saw training. These soldiers are ready. They are all day tough, ready to fight when they have to, and can still get done the job they were sent to do.
It filled me with awe, and surprise and pride in what they, regular people, can do when called on to provide service to their nation.
So don't call them weekend warriors any more. At least not on my watch.
Connie Nowlin is managing editor of the Atmore Advance and may be reached at 368-2123 or email at connie.nowlin@atmoreadvance.com