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Many Weekend Warriors Now Serving America Full Time

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JACKSONVILLE — It might be surprising to learn that nearly half of America's military troops are part-time service members.

The number changes almost daily, but so far, more than 55,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists have been called to active duty in this war making the idea of weekend warriors a thing of the past.

National Guardsmen and Reservists have families and full-time jobs. Last summer, the Army threw them a curve.

"I've been in for 20 years, since 1982 when I enlisted. This is the first time we've ever deployed in this unit," said a soldier from Jacksonville.

The part-time soldier was called to full-time duty, working security detail in Bosnia. He and his company were gone for nine months, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"You understand that it could happen, but I just didn't think that it would happen. I think it will happen more in the future," said his spouse.

The deployments can be tough on children, too.

"They're used to dad being home with them. He's gone all the time so it's a hard adjustment on them not to understand why he can't come home for the holidays, birthdays, stuff like that," said the spouse of another soldier.

But children are also proud.

"Since I'm the only girl, it was kind of hard because I'm daddy's little girl, so I missed him a lot," said one soldier's daughter.

"I'm proud of him because he was one of those defending our country, and he was caring for the people of America," said one son.

With the military slimming down, the National Guard and Reserves are playing a more important part of the action.

"It seems to be more emphasis on training and actually getting things accomplished as opposed to say 20 years ago, where mostly you show up, you fudge around a little bit and have some fun — the weekend warrior term," said a Staff Sergeant.

The soldiers said that they can deploy as easily as active duty personnel, but there is one more hoop they have to jump through. If their employers do not cooperate, it can make it tougher to help serve their country.

While many civilian employers are understanding, not all of them are able to hold the jobs of reservists who are deployed for months at a time.

When everything does work together, the families and the country are stronger once the troops come home.

More than 200 airmen from the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson are currently on active duty; 52 guardsmen from Morrisville were called up this weekend.

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