Local News

Springer Journal: Three Cities Evacuated … Everyone Is Gone

Posted December 19, 2003

— Have you noticed? Cary, Chapel Hill and Wake Forest have all been evacuated. There is no one remaining in any section of these three great cities. And another 18,000 rural residents have left their homes, jobs and businesses as well. The World War on Terror is responsible.

Three North Carolina cities evacuated? Well, not really. But these three cities and another 18,000 rural residents represent the total number of military reservists and National Guard members on active duty today.

There are over 178,500 men and women from across the nation that will be spending Christmas 2003 on active duty. Many are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas where they are in harms way. Others are in readiness training here in America getting ready to deploy overseas. Others are backfilling active duty positions at many of our military posts. They are all volunteers. They are all doing our nation's business.

These reserve forces are, in most cases, not only separated from their homes, families and communities; they are also absent from their jobs in civilian life. As you read this, you can probably reflect on a co-worker, a neighbor, a student, a community first responder or a family member that has been activated to support the World War on Terror.

Who are the members of the Reserve Component? For starters, the term Reserve Component includes those we call reservists and those who serve in the Army or Air Force National Guard. There are reservists in all of our military forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Many have served on active duty in their respective branches of the armed services. They served one or more tours of active duty and then transferred their skills, their experience and their patriotism into the Reserve Component. Some, however, initially join the reserves or National Guard right out of high school or while attending college. And, there is also a contingent of the Guard and reserves that serve full time in those positions requiring such duty.

I observed these "citizen-soldiers" up close and personal during my military career. I know from experience that patriotism, a desire to serve their country, the sense of belonging to an elite unit, and, oh yes, some extra cash are all motivating factors. The "cash" factor is clearly of less importance to those who early on had served on active duty. For example, airline pilots are well compensated. Yet there are many, many airline pilots who fly with the reserve or Guard units for all those other reasons.

All of these reservists and Guardsmen have made a significant commitment of time away from their families, their communities and their jobs. I suspect most had not planned on the lengthy year long deployments which they are experiencing in today's war on terror. In some cases they are realizing up to two years of active duty. There are basically two reasons for these extended deployments.

Following the conflict in Vietnam, our government made a conscious decision to place much of our nation's military might in the Reserve Components. Secondly, during the 1990's, we sliced nearly 35 percent of active duty forces from the books. (From 2.1 million to just under1.4 million men and women on active duty.) Hence, the heavy reliance on our reservists when our country is confronted with war.

It would be impossible to activate over 200,000 reservists and Guardsmen as we have done since 9/11 without the incredible support of the employers of these men and women. Police and firemen … school teachers … factory workers … farmers …lawyers … doctors … business men and women … and I could go on. All of these folks have important jobs to do in their civilian lives and careers.

They also have understanding employers who recognize the value of these people to their jobs and to their nation. Without the proper employer support of our Guard and reserve forces, our military might would be significantly weakened. The costly alternative would be hundreds of thousands more members serving on active duty. These employers all deserve our thanks and support!

As you celebrate this holiday season, remember our men and women who are the true "citizen-soldiers" envisioned by our forefathers centuries ago. They, like their active duty counterparts, certainly deserve our thanks, our support and our prayers.

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