Guard/Reserve Troops Full-Time Patriots, Says Bush
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
CHARLESTON, W.Va., Feb. 15, 2001 President George W. Bush thanked Guardsmen, reservists and their civilian employers here Feb. 14 for their patriotism and service in support of the nation’s security.
The president, accompanied by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, flew on Air Force One to Yeager Air National Guard airfield here. The two reviewed West Virginia Air National Guard and Army Guard and Reserve troops.
Bush later spoke with employers of Guardsmen and reservists, attended a disaster relief operations drill and delivered an address in an airfield hangar to a packed audience that included U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, Gov. Bob Wise, West Virginia Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett, and other distinguished officials.
A former National Guardsman himself -- he was a fighter pilot in the Texas Air Guard -- Bush lauded reserve component members of West Virginian and all the other states, citing their selfless service as citizen soldiers. Bush is the first former National Guardsman elected to the White House since 1948, when President Truman, a World War I Army Guard artillery captain, won a term in his own right.
“The National Guard and reserves are a vital part of America's national defense,” Bush said in his remarks. “And I want you to know that you not only have a former Guardsman in the White House, you have a friend.”
Bush said Guard and Reserve members “display values that are central to our nation: character, courage and sacrifice” and demonstrate “the highest form of citizenship.
"And while you may not be full-time soldiers, you are full-time patriots,” he added.
Bush’s Charleston trip followed visits to Fort Stewart, Ga., on Feb. 12, and Norfolk, Va., on Feb. 13. The president has often declared his support for service members. On all the week's visits, he and Rumsfeld promise higher pay and other quality of life improvements, and the coming review of DoD and national military strategy that Bush has ordered.
The president noted that the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard have a history of accomplishing their missions. They hold the highest readiness ratings of any other National Guard organization, he said, to the crowd's delight.
“The people of West Virginia have always answered the country’s call to service,” Bush said, adding that the state’s Guard and Reserve units have more applicants than openings.
He also lavished praise on all the employers of America’s National Guard and Reserve members. He noted that 2001 is the National Guard’s “Year of the Employer.”
“Citizen soldiers have always depended on selfless employers,” Bush said, adding that West Virginia employers enthusiastically support their employees in the Guard and Reserve. Those employers, he said, “care about their state, and they care about their country.”
During a meeting with employers, Bush noted that the United States will “have a foreign policy that is strong and consistent and clear, with a military that is focused and prepared to keep the peace.
“And guardsmen and reservists will play a major role,” he added.
Today’s 1.3-million Guard and Reserve members are the descendents of America’s Revolutionary War-era minutemen, Bush said, noting that they have “stepped up” to meet today’s challenges. Besides providing support for traditional national defense needs, reserve component members also support disaster relief missions and homeland defense efforts against terrorist weapons of mass destruction, he said.
West Virginia and other states’ guardsmen and reservists, like their active duty counterparts, are among the American men and women around the world who proudly wear the uniform, Bush said.
“Your uniform shows that you are living your life for others, for your fellow West Virginians in time of suffering and crisis, for your fellow Americans when our safety is threatened, and for the values and ideals our country represents when our allies and friends ask for help,” he said.
The reserve components account for about half of America’s military, defense officials said. Consequently, guardsmen and reservists in the past decade have frequently deployed worldwide alongside active duty U.S. forces, they added. Since 1995, for example, more than 20,000 reservists have been called up for duty in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Air National Guard aviators continue to support no-fly-zone enforcement operations against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. More than 200,000 Guard and Reserve members served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Historically, the reserve components have figured prominently in the nation’s defense. Four out of five naval members during World War II were reservists, to include Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, also a fighter pilot. The Marine Corps grew from 75,000 to over a quarter-million members during the Korean War thanks to the reserves. More than 340,000 reservists served during the Vietnam War, and almost 6,000 were killed in Vietnam.