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Proud of Your Service

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- On Jan. 9, 2012 I stood out on our flightline happily awaiting the returning men and women of the 127th Wing, returning home after over 100 days of service in Afghanistan, and I felt a tremendous surge of pride. The men and women of the 127th Wing, all volunteers, had just spent 100 days away from friends and families. All had missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years celebrations. Some had missed the births of their children. Birthdays and anniversaries had been missed. Each of them have served their nation with pride. The call of our nation has been met and now our Airmen had returned home. All were volunteers.

The National Guard has a very proud tradition of volunteers. True Citizen Soldiers, all of us. People in 1775 put down their plows, picked up their muskets, and volunteered to create the nation we have today. It was the Militia that first fought at Lexington and Concord at the start of the Revolution. The United States of America had no standing Army, as we were the colony of England, yet citizens armed themselves and carved this nation out of what they had started. All were volunteers.

In 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette was going through New York on his way back to France, and was honored by the 2nd Battalion, 11th New York Artillery. The Marquis was so impressed, that he shook every officer's hand in the Battalion and compared them to his elite fighting force, the "Garde Nationale de Paris". The term stuck, and the New York Militia became the National Guard. All were volunteers.

In World War I the National Guard made up over 40 percent of the U. S. combat divisions in France, in World War II the National Guard made up 19 divisions, in Korea over 140,000 Guardsmen were mobilized, and over 63,000 Guardsmen saw service during Operation Desert Storm. All were volunteers.

National Guard members have provided more support to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever before. Of the fighting forces deployed, 43% in Iraq and 55% in Afghanistan were from the National Guard. The men and women of the 127th Wing have deployed with four airframes, multiple times, as whole units, small groups, and individuals, to both Iraq and Afghanistan. All were volunteers.

The National Guard has gone through many changes in the last twenty years. We have become a fighting force that is relied upon by the United States of America to stand up in her defense when called. The top post of the National Guard was elevated to a four star General last year, and this year sits at the table as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The National Guard is a fighting force that the founders of United States of America defined in the Constitution. Citizen Soldiers, leaving their daily lives to put on the uniform of the Army or Air Force and serve their nation. Whether during training exercises, in times of emergency when our citizens really need us, or when our nation calls in time of war, we dutifully put down our plows and answer the call. All are volunteers.

I got in line and shook every single individual's hand that got off of the aircraft that cold evening, and thanked each and every one of them for their service. Members of the 127th Wing that remained at Selfridge stayed after work and helped to drag baggage, helped to process people through lines of shots and paperwork, and welcomed the returning members home. Finally the returning Airmen made their way to the Dining Facility and their anxiously awaiting families. Each of them got to return home for a much deserved rest. The 127th Wing has another successful deployment, everybody returned safely home. Each and every one of them volunteers.

I am proud of my service to my country, and especially of your service to our country. Thank you, members of the 127th Wing, for your service.