On Veterans Day each year, we honor those brave Americans who volunteered their lives in service to our country. This year, in addition to celebrating the six military branches and their reserve forces, I want to highlight the exceptional service by the veterans of our South Dakota Army and Air National Guard. As Governor I serve as their Commander-in-Chief — a sacred role I am honored to serve.
The National Guard is so foundational to our country that it is included in our U.S. Constitution under Article 1, Section 8: “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” The National Guard is unique in that they have two commanders-in-chief. They can be called to state service by the governor; or, be called up for federal service by the president.
National Guard troops are civilians who can be called to service at a moment’s notice. They can be deployed to a health care mission in the Black Hills or to drug-trafficking hotspots along the U.S.-Mexico border. They can also be deployed to Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to prepare for forward combat operations or serve regional peace-keeping missions.
The South Dakota National Guard has deployed troops in every war since the Spanish-American War in 1898 — less than 10 years after South Dakota joined the U.S.
In the last 30 years, the South Dakota National Guard has deployed more than 10,000 of its Air Force and Army service members. We have had guardsmen deployed nearly every day in the last 20 years since the 9/11 attacks.
Our state certainly has our share of heroes who have served in the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard — we’re still waiting on our first standout servicemember with the Space Force. And we cannot forget the contributions of our Reserve forces serving these branches.
Our National Guard in the past few years have defined excellence.For the last four years straight, South Dakota National Guard units have been ranked the very best in America for combat readiness. Our battalions are raising the bar for combat and service readiness standards.
Their service during the COVID pandemic has reminded us that when disasters strike — including tornadoes, wildfires, floods, and blizzards — we have the best-trained arsenal of military operatives ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The National Guard motto says it all: Always Ready, Always There.
Despite more than 150 years of dutiful service, it wasn’t until 2016 that all National Guard and Reserve forces were recognized as veterans. I was proud to vote for H.R. 6416 as a Representative in the 114th U.S. Congress. The law ensures that Guardsmen and Reservists who served 20 years regardless of combat deployment status, receive the honorary veteran recognition.
As Governor, I am working with our Department of Veterans Affairs to better serve our 72,000 veterans from all our military branches. I am also committed to upholding our status as the best state for a veteran to live and work.
To all our veterans who have served in our National Guard – including Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, whose family has served in the military dating back to World War I — thank you for raising your hand and answering the call to serve. Thank you for making South Dakota your home, both during your time of service and as a veteran.
To all veterans across South Dakota, thank you for being part of the 1% of Americans who wear the uniform to protect and defend our freedoms. God bless you and all those who have bravely served.
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