South Dakota State News

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November 5, 2021

Every year on Veterans Day, we honor those brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our country. This year, in addition to celebrating the Six Military Branches and their Reserve Forces, I want to recognize the outstanding service of the veterans of our South Dakota Army and Air National Guard. As governor, I am their commander-in-chief – a sacred role that I am honored to fulfill.

The National Guard is so fundamental to our country that it is included in our US Constitution under Article 1, Section 8: “To anticipate the call of the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurgencies and repel invasions.” The National Guard is unique in that it has two commanders in chief. They can be called to the service of the State by the governor; or, be called to federal service by the president.

National Guard troops are civilians who can be called up for service at any time. They can be deployed on a healthcare mission in the Black Hills or in drug trafficking hotspots along the US-Mexico border. They can also be deployed to Europe, Africa or the Middle East to prepare for advanced combat operations or serve regional peacekeeping missions.

The South Dakota National Guard has deployed troops in every war since the Spanish American War in 1898 – less than 10 years after South Dakota joined the United States

Over the past 30 years, the South Dakota National Guard has deployed more than 10,000 of its Air Force and Army personnel. We have had guards deployed almost every day for the past 20 years since the September 11 attacks.

Our state certainly has our share of heroes who have served in the military, navies, air force, navy and coast guard – we are still awaiting our first outstanding member of the Space Force. And we cannot forget the contributions of our reserve forces in the service of these branches.

Over the past few years, our National Guard has defined excellence. For the past four years in a row, South Dakota National Guard units have been ranked among the best in America for combat readiness. Our battalions are raising the bar for combat readiness and service standards.

Their service during the COVID pandemic has reminded us that when disasters strike – including tornadoes, wildfires, floods and blizzards – we have the best-trained arsenal of military agents ready to deploy. at any time. The motto of the National Guard says it all: Always ready, always there.

Despite over 150 years of dedicated service, it was not until 2016 that all National Guard and Reserve forces were recognized as veterans. I was proud to vote for HR 6416 as a representative in the 114e US Congress. The law guarantees that guards and reservists who have served 20 years, regardless of their combat deployment status, receive honorary veteran recognition.

As governor, I work with our Department of Veterans Affairs to better serve our 72,000 veterans from all of our military branches. I also pledge to maintain our status as the best state for a veteran to live and work.

To all of our veterans who served in our National Guard – including Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, whose family has served in the military since World War I – thank you for raising your hand and responding to the call to serve. Thank you for making South Dakota your home, both during your time of service and as a veteran.

To all South Dakota Veterans, thank you for being part of the 1% of Americans who wear uniform to protect and defend our freedoms. May God bless you and all who have courageously served.


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