Nebraska’s National Guard has a long, distinguished history of serving our state and country. Since 1854, the Nebraska National Guard has played a pivotal role in helping keep Nebraska safe and secure. As governor, I am honored to serve as their commander-in-chief for the 4,600 soldiers and airmen from every corner of Nebraska who proudly wear our nation’s uniform. Their stories are all different, but they all have one thing in common: A desire to serve their state and nation.

The National Guard has a unique mission and dual role in the Department of Defense. Day-to-day, the constitutional militia in the 50 states, three territories and District of Columbia answer to their respective governor. In Nebraska, the National Guard’s mission is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of our state. When they are federally mobilized, they report to the president of the United States and their mission is to fight and win our nation’s wars.

Usually in Nebraska, anyone you see in uniform is a Nebraska National Guard member, unless you’re in Bellevue, home of Offutt Air Force Base. The Nebraska National Guard has 25 readiness centers in 23 different communities. Throughout its history, the Nebraska Guard has maintained armories in 109 different communities across our state.

Since its inception, the Nebraska National Guard has played a vital role in helping secure and protect our state, our nation and our allies. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, most National Guard members did not expect to be deployed. Since that tragic day, the Nebraska National Guard has deployed over 10,000 soldiers and airmen. Nebraska’s young men and women now join the National Guard with the expectation that they will be deployed and making a difference. Their commitment to service gives both myself and all Nebraskans something to be proud of.

During my time as governor, I have had the honor to represent the people of Nebraska at a number of send-off ceremonies. Susanne and I have delivered words of encouragement and watched as families say goodbye to their sons, daughters, husbands and wives. They must begin a chapter in life without them. It is a difficult moment for everyone. I know, however, the entire state stands behind them and are ready to help the families.

I have also had the honor of attending a number of welcome home ceremonies. These are some of my favorite memories as governor. This April we welcomed home 35 soldiers who conducted aeromedical evacuation services in Afghanistan. And in August we welcomed home 51 airmen who conducted 40 combat missions and delivered 6 million pounds of fuel for air strike operations. The days that our servicemen and women return home safely are unforgettable for them, their families, and for our state.

Right now, Nebraska soldiers and airmen are around the globe protecting the republic. For example, we have dozens of Nebraska soldiers deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are supporting detainee operations. Next year, the Nebraska Air National Guard will take on new missions to key locations in the Pacific as well as the Middle East. Our National Guard members are ready, able and willing to take on any mission they receive.

But missions are not just in faraway lands, they are also on the home front. The Nebraska National Guard recently supported relief efforts for our neighbors in Texas and Florida. Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, they rescued 461 people and 44 pets and delivered 142,000 pounds of cargo, 6,000 pounds of bottled water, 3,000 pounds of food and 1,000 pounds of medical supplies. Often, the National Guard is one of several Nebraska resources, such as Nebraska Task Force 1, responding to natural disasters. Together, they put into action that Nebraska community spirit by helping our neighbors in need.

Whether they are responding to disasters or serving overseas, Nebraskans are grateful to the men and women of the Nebraska National Guard. Our members sacrifice and leave family, friends and employers to protect us both here and abroad. They and their families couldn’t do this without the support of community and family support they receive from people like you. Whenever you get the opportunity, I encourage you to take the time to thank our National Guard members for their service. God bless them, God bless Nebraska and God bless the United States of America.

Gov. Pete Ricketts can be contacted at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.

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