May 27, 2013

Honoring Citizen Soldiers

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This Memorial Day we join with family and friends to honor the many brave Americans who we depend on to secure our homeland, while remembering the sacrifices of those who lost their lives defending our freedoms.  As we reflect on the service of these brave men and women, we must count among them the citizen soldiers who make up our National Guard and Reserve forces.  These men and women are an essential part of our military and, along with all members of our armed services, they have my utmost respect. 

Guard members and Reservists from every branch of the military are highly-skilled local and national leaders.  With its unique dual mission of protecting community and country, the National Guard deploys to locations all over the world while also serving as a first responder during times of local emergencies, such as natural disasters.  Last year, nearly 200 men and women were mobilized to assist with wild land firefighting efforts across our state.  Additionally, unlike active duty military service members, military service is not a guard member's primary profession.  They utilize skills from civilian careers and military training to the benefit of local workforces and national defense. 

Idaho is fortunate to be home to the extraordinary men and women who serve at the Joint Force Headquarters at Gowen Field in Boise.  The Joint Force Headquarters is home to Army and Air National Guard forces as well as Army and Air Force reserve components. 

With the Idaho Army National Guard headquartered at Gowen Field in Boise and affiliated units dispersed throughout the state in 27 communities, Idaho Citizen Soldiers have a significant presence around the state.  The 116 th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team is the Idaho National Guard's largest unit.  It deployed twice to Iraq in the past decade.  Soldiers in the Idaho Army National Guard also served during many other overseas military operations, including World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Bosnia Herzegovina.  Fifty-nine Idaho National Guard soldiers are in Cambodia working to help the Cambodian military develop their peacekeeping, disaster assistance and medical capabilities.

Gowen Field is also home to the Idaho Air National Guard and the 124 th Fighter Wing.  The Idaho Air Guard is also home to sixteen support units.  The 124 th Fighter Wing is the descendant of the 405 th Fighter Bomber Squadron, which flew combat missions in Europe during World War II.  Idaho Citizen Airmen have been deployed all over the world, including missions over Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

We are blessed to have many service members and veterans in our communities.  They provide steady reminders of strong commitment, strength, honor and professionalism.  These men and women sacrifice time with their families and put their lives on the line to keep us safe and preserve our freedoms.  We can honor their service by keeping their heroism at the forefront of our thoughts every day. 

Memorial Day is a time to honor our country's brave men and women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect the American way of life.  We cannot thank them and their families enough for the sacrifices they have made.  I am humbled by their contribution to our nation and to Idaho.  Please join me in paying tribute to our fallen soldiers.  Let us remember those who are still fighting on the battlefield today, recognize those who have returned home and appreciate those who continue to build up our communities and nation.   My thoughts and prayers are with our nation's service members and their families as we celebrate this Memorial Day.   

# # #

Word Count:  591