President Harry S. Truman was the driving force to establish a single holiday for a grateful nation to thank its men and women in uniform. And 66 years ago the United States observed its first Armed Services Day, only a few years after all the armed services were brought together under the Department of Defense.

While it is right and proper to recognize the sacrifice and commitment of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, it is also good to remember that serving in the armed forces is a privilege and an honor.

Not everyone has been willing to serve in uniform, and not everyone who was willing succeeded. Even the jobs that seemingly place the service member the greatest distance from combat still require a high degree of discipline, professionalism and commitment. It takes a combination of patriotism, selfless service, courage and dedication along with fitness and skill to wear the uniform. In short, only a select few — our nation’s best — can serve in the military.

Those who did serve and who are serving have learned that what they get out of military service is often determined by what they put into it. There is something to be said for being part of something larger than oneself, for putting the interest of a nation ahead of personal comfort or safety. And for many, the pride of serving the nation lasts long after the uniform was put away for the last time.

The American profession of arms predates the birth of our nation. If you consider the colonial militias, from which the Continental Army was initially formed, American military service dates back to 1636. The National Guard is a proud part of that legacy as it traces its lineage back to those early militias, pre-dating the formation of our country and the rest of the Armed Forces. The Continental Congress authorized an Army, Navy and Marine Corps in 1775 before it was determined that only a declaration of independence would secure the people’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The earliest Citizen Soldiers and minutemen guaranteed the safety of their communities, just as today, our National Guard serves a dual-role for our state and nation.

As the first military responder in the homeland, the National Guard continues the legacy of those early militias as it stands ready to serve the citizens of our local communities in times of emergency. And just as in 1775, when colonial militias fired the “shot heard ‘round the world,” or in 1942 when Guardsmen from across our nation answered the call to serve in the Second World War, the National Guard simultaneously serves as the primary combat reserve of the Army and the Air Force.

Never has that been more apparent than in the years since 9/11, when the National Guard has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our brethren from the rest of the Armed Forces, deploying tens of thousands of Soldiers and Airmen to foreign lands to protect our nation.

We’re a proud partner in defense of our nation, and we’ll continue to be “Always Ready, Always There,” for both our state and our nation.


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