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Recognizing our ‘citizen soldiers’

We call them “citizen soldiers” because for most of the year, they are not in uniform but instead, among us at our workplaces, schools and elsewhere in our society. But this year, many are on the front lines of a war being fought not with firearms and other implements of combat, but with testing kits, face masks, hand sanitizer and other weapons of health care.

About 450,100 Americans serve in the Army and Air National Guard. Normally, the governors of states where they live call upon them only during times of natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. Their service lasts for just a few days, or perhaps a couple of weeks.

Our natural disaster this year, COVID-19, has been among us for more than eight months. During that period of combat, men and women of the National Guard have been mobilized throughout the nation to help safeguard us against the deadly disease.

While their fellow Americans do what we can to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, men and women of the National Guard have been charging into the enemy’s midst. At nursing homes, hospitals and elsewhere, they serve shoulder to shoulder with health care workers to save lives. At COVID-19 testing stations, they help check people, many of whom have reason to worry they have contracted the disease. In dozens of other roles from assisting with distribution of government aid to handing food out to children, the men and women of the Guard have proven to be invaluable.

Often, they are at significant risk of catching the virus themselves. They know that, but have not shirked their duty.

It takes them away from homes and loved ones for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.

We just observed Veterans Day on Wednesday. On that special day, we honor all who have served in the military — but we take time now to recognize the sacrifices of those in the National Guard. For more than two centuries, our “citizen soldiers” have stood ready to help in emergencies. By serving us during the worst health care disaster in more than 100 years, they once again have demonstrated that when we need them the most, they are there.

Bless each and every one of them.

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