Most people probably haven’t a clue about the fact that the National Guard and Reservesmake up almost one half of our national military forces. What does that mean? It means several things both for those currently serving in the various National Guard and Reserve units in Iraq or Afghanistan, and for their lives back here at home.
National Guard and Reserve troops are our modern Minutemen, our Citizen Soldiers. These troops live and work in our communities, our neighborhoods, on our own streets. They work in business offices, as teachers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and mechanics. If you did not know them personally you would think nothing unusual about them at all. But they are not just citizens – they are also soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines.
These men and women work their regular jobs just like the rest of us, but one weekend a month and for a few weeks each summer, they leave their civilian jobs and their families and exchange their civilian clothes for desert camouflage to train in their designated military skills, so that when called upon they will be ready to serve the nation on the battlefield and beyond. They often are called upon to help out in emergencies here at home, like Hurricane Katrina and abroad, for example, in the recent tsunami in Japan.
If you read the numbers in the first paragraph, you begin to recognize in them a simple fact. These men and women have been fighting in their numbers in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years. That means that they have had to leave their jobs and families to go to war on more than one occasion. The problem is that many are not finding their jobs waiting for them on their return home. This is not right.
The unemployment rate among current National Guard and Reserve junior enlisted members, according to an editorial in the Seattle Times on 4/18/12, is an astounding 23%. Others are underemployed or working in jobs that do not utilize their specific talents or skills.
It is the condition of the current economy that is behind some of this, of course, but for those businesses who have positions to fill at this time, this is a group that it would be wise to hire. They are mature, disciplined individuals who are experienced leaders, and who have demonstrated responsibility and professionalism. Current employers of Guardsmen and Reservists need to honor and respect the sacrifices these men and women make for all of us and accommodate them for training days and deployments. This is only fair. After all, they are protecting all of us with their lives.
Unlike regular military forces, these men and women not only willingly take on the risks and sacrifices in the battle zones, but they also make heavy sacrifices to serve their civilian employers, their families, and our nation. Let us never forget what they have done and are presently doing for us all at home and abroad.