Have you ever volunteered to do something beneficial for the community by standing forward in the hopes of making a difference? For men who wished to be separate from the Army, a community-centric organization was founded in 1893 under the establishment of the National Guard. Under the oath of enlistment, the role of the guardsmen has changed. Today, men and women are asked to defend our country against foreign and domestic threats. One weekend a month and two weeks during the year, National Guardsmen continue training in a state of preparation until “the call” arrives to assist. Deployment may be issued to a location overseas or to support a community with resources for an impending hurricane, wildfire, severe and consistent freezing temperatures, or a raging snow storm. It is not one unit’s boots, who have arrived at a destination, but 25 to 30 from across the country.
Accustomed to deploying, military men and women come together, along with federal and state organizations, local fire and police departments, and EMS to ensure hospitals and nursing homes have power and the people are safe and fed with “Meals Ready to Eat,” or MREs. A mission of multi-faceted tasks such as rescue operations and the evacuation of people and animals, staging hospitals and supporting shelters, clearing roads and removing debris, distributing supplies and providing meals takes training and practice to work as a team. MSgt.Bryan Gamble, ANG, Ret. is among thousands who say, “One of the best things about state duty was the ability to go out and help people!”
No matter the season or the emergency, men, and women have received specialty training to handle diverse types of traumatic situations. By quickly reading body language and identifying medical symptoms or behaviors, people receive priority care for treatment.
Sgt. Mary Lea Ziglar, ARNG, Ret. recalls being deployed and working alongside the Wendell Police department in Wendell, North Carolina. In 1996, Hurricane Fran brought the National Guardsmen to conduct home checks, recover and rescue individuals and families, as well as their pets. Remembering the faces of stranded people created a lasting memory.
Three years later during the memorable event of Hurricane Floyd, Greenville, North Carolina resident Martina Priddy-Barnum recalls watching the military trucks driving through the flooded waters, supplying the people with pallets of much-needed water bottles, and dispersing through neighborhoods to evacuate people and their pets. Martina writes, “We were all so glad to see them!”
Give to Causes Greater than Yourself
A quote may be heard that well defined a philosophy. During a speech, Mitt Romney stated, “Get out of the shallow waters of selfishness and give yourself to causes greater than yourself. Launch yourself into the deep waters of great causes.” After 22 years of service, the words resonated a substantial meaning to TSgt John Owens, ANG, Ret. Owens writes, “Most of my time in the military was spent in the North Carolina Air National Guard. In that time, people came and went, while some remained until retirement. We grew up together on deployments and state active duty for storms, floods, hurricanes and deployments that took us all over the United States and the world. We willingly gave up weekends, time with our families, and missed events in our lives to participate in a greater cause. During this process, we went past unit cohesion and became a family.” Owens advises others to leave their comfort zone and find a cause greater than themselves. “And, if you are fortunate,” says Owens, “you may find a band of extraordinary brothers and sisters, who will be present beyond the memories and good times.”
Investing in the Community
Retired veterans seated together reminisce of the days when they stood together as a unit helping each other in the line of service. It is a unique thirst to be part of something bigger than yourself. Whether the time is an investment of two decades or longer, serving does not end in retirement.
The commitment begins with the desire to help others. The door will open and push your limits, establish lifelong friendships, teach new skills, and take you to unimaginable places. It takes a will to step forward. Ready?