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12-24-12: Revisiting the Changing Role of the National Guard
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Segment originally aired on April 3, 2012.
The National Guard has been around for more than 375 years. Its ideal is the citizen-soldier: someone who maintains a life in his or her community, but is also willing to defend the entire country.
On February 25, 2012 Baltimore resident Maj. Robert Marchanti II, a member of the Maryland National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan. Maj. Marchanti was 48, and had spent more than half his life--25 years--in the National Guard. As a citizen, Maj. Marchanti was a physical education teacher in Baltimore County. He died as a soldier inside an Afghan ministry.
The typical National Guard commitment—two weeks of training, and one weekend a month—gave us the popular perception of the “weekend warrior,” but that was before the identity of the Guard expanded so deeply into the front lines. Since the attacks of September 2011, hundreds of thousands of National Guard members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and many, like Maj. Marchanti, have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In April 2012, Sheilah talked to Maj. Marchanti's daughter Leah from her home in Baltimore. We spoke with Leah last week and she said several benefits, including a 5K run, have been completed in honor of her father.
In the original April segment, Sheilah also explored the shift in the National Guard's role and its’ effect on families with Larry Minear, author of a report called The U.S. Citizen-Soldier and the Global War on Terror: The National Guard Experience, and Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, who, as the adjutant general for Maryland, is in charge of daily operations of the Maryland Air and Army National Guard, as well as envisioning its future.
We also caught up with Larry Minear last week. Minear recently wrote an article in the Boston Globe related to veterans. He also sent us this essay:
In the eight months that have elapsed since WYPR’s original program on the Changing Role of the National Guard, a number of the challenges identified at that time have been confirmed.
With the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq and the phasing down of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the spotlight has begun to shift from the battlefields to the challenges of re-entry. Writings by veterans and interviews with them chart the process, which has not been easy for many individual service personnel or for the families to which they are returning. (The program last June highlighted the impact of the death of one soldier on his family.) Many veterans are beginning to reflect on the wider meaning of an experience -- often troubling if not downright traumatic -- which they had little time to process when under fire in Afghanistan and Iraq,
Veterans are receiving new assignments within the military or transitioning back to civilian life. National Guard personnel have resumed the citizen portion of their “citizen soldier” roles, returning in many instances to their former jobs and reconnecting with their families and communities. However, the nation’s social service system is having difficulty responding promptly to the multiple needs of veterans, whether physical or psychological. Many veterans continue to experience long wait times in the processing of their claims. Veterans and their advocates are working to protect veterans’ programs from cuts as the nation struggles with federal budget outlays more broadly.
The American public has stepped up its Thank Yous to veterans for their service to the country, from informal greetings of khaki-clad veterans in airports to formal recognitions of veterans at sporting events and other public gatherings. Veterans themselves are increasingly coming forward to articulate their own views about their service. In short, many of the thorny issues raised by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are only now beginning to be confronted.
Dec. 21, 2012
Front page photo credit: Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II (center). Photo courtesy of The Maryland National Guard.