Senator John ThuneAugust is a time when many set work aside for a while to spend time with their families and to enjoy a relaxed pace away from the pressures of their jobs. For many who serve in the South Dakota National Guard, however, this August will find them far away from home and loved ones.
Since September 11, 2001, almost ninety percent of the South Dakota National Guard has been deployed in active duty service. South Dakota guardsmen and women have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places far from home. South Dakotans also went to the aid of those in Louisiana who suffered the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
National Guard members are people from all walks of life who answer the call of service to our nation. Given the diversity of missions assigned to the Guard, it is clear that it is becoming an integral part of our nation's security. I recently had the opportunity to participate in the graduation of a group of officer candidates for the South Dakota National Guard. These men and women will be the citizen-leaders of a highly trained and multidimensional force that will play an ever important role in defending America. I salute them for their courage and thank them for their willingness to lead.
It is easy to take common freedoms we enjoy every day for granted-worshipping at church, learning at school, traveling on family vacations-but if we take a moment to consider the great sacrifices that have been made over the years to cement those daily freedoms, they take on much more meaning.
I have met with soldiers from all over the country. Many of them have lost limbs and endured tragic injuries. What amazes me is that even after having been shaken by violence, terror, and trials, their resolve is unwavering. Many of them told me if they could physically go back to the front lines, they would. This kind of commitment and resolve is what makes America the greatest country in the world.
South Dakotans should be proud of the service of so many of our friends, family, and neighbors who have answered the call to defend our nation. We must honor the memory of those who have fallen, and never forget the sacrifice that has been made to keep all of us safe and free. Our annual commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001 is drawing near. There is no better way to remember what that day means to our nation than to show our appreciation to those who have given so much since that dreadful day. As I pen this column, I remember what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, how, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." My brief newspaper column can in no way express the depth of gratitude that we have for our neighbors who have given so much.