Civilian soldiers Guardsmen and Reservists make special sacrifices

The winds of war hit home this week for the families of 22 Northeast Mississippi Army National Guardsmen who will be called into active duty service later this month. They’re part of a company of helicopter pilots connected to the 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation based in Tupelo.

Where they’ll go and exactly what they’ll be doing isn’t yet known, but the prospect of a U.S.-led war with Iraq is what has them facing months away from home, family and work.

About 65 Army Reserve members based in Jackson and Starkville have also been told to report for active duty. Most will be heading to their assignments by the end of this month.

The mobilization of Guard and Reserve units points to the fallacy of the old description of these part-time soldiers as “weekend warriors.” Those weekends and occasional longer forays aren’t merely activity for its own sake; they’re training for just such a day as the one that’s upon us.

That Guardsmen and Reservists are needed when the nation is readying for potential conflict points to their vital role in U.S. military readiness.

All members of the armed services face a degree of anxiety and uncertainty when the possibility of conflict intensifies. For Guard members and Reservists, however, the uncertainty involves leaving civilian lives behind on relatively short notice.

It’s voluntary service, of course, but it exacts a price – even beyond the obvious dangers of heading off to war.

Guardsmen and Reservists rarely receive the appreciation they deserve from the rest of us for their willingness to be on call when their country needs them.

America’s regular military forces are, by all accounts, as well-trained and disciplined as ever. They will no doubt be up to whatever task they’re given in the coming weeks and months. But they’ll receive invaluable support from the civilian soldiers who will be joining or replacing them in various roles.

These soldiers are neighbors and friends, parents and spouses and co-workers. They give an immediate human face to the sometimes abstract face of war halfway around the globe. When they leave, they will be missed. Before they leave, and when they return, they will deserve our thanks.

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