With so many major developments and historic events occurring in our society over the past year, one organization that has not had an opportunity to really catch a rest is one of the key volunteer-based organizations in our nation — the National Guard.

Over the past 12-18 months, these men and women have found themselves deployed for a number of reasons, mainly to help assist in the response to civil unrest in cities across the country and in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve asked them to step into the line of fire on battles in the streets and also to leave their families and jobs to ensure that the distribution of needed aid and medical care was done without question. When violence took hold and sometimes overshadowed peaceful protests being held in search of social justice, the Nation Guard was dispatched.

When a group of misguided right-wingers — note that this was not all protestors on that day, just a portion— committed an act of sedition by storming the U.S. Capitol building, we dispatched the National Guard.

Regardless of where their politics and beliefs lie, and regardless of what pay or benefits they were to receive or lose, we have always expected these men and women to step up.

And they did.

And, now, as some of these duties end and they’re allowed to return home, at this time when we should be honoring these men and women as heroes and expressing our gratitude, we’ve instead apparently allowed them to become yet another example of the broken promises we’ve made to those who serve in the military.

The Washington Post reported last week that U.S Census Bureau data shows that hunger among National Guard members and reservists is more than double the national rate.

“They report more food insecurity than nearly any other group, regardless of household income, education, age or race” the Post reported. “Nearly one in five Guard members report sometimes or often not having enough to eat. And a third of those with a spouse serving in the National Guard or reserves report not having enough to eat. The numbers are even more troubling for National Guard and reserve families with children.”

And I’m left flummoxed.

So we have asked these men and women to step into harm’s way to protect us, not only from the growing threat of political violence, but also from the silent enemy we faced in COVID-19, and what thanks have we given them but to apparently let their families suffer for their service.

A National Guard spokesman told the Post that he’s skeptical about the data, but others say that guard members and reservists are often hesitant to report their issues to superiors because it can hinder the possibility of promotions and carry other costs.

And it’s not difficult to see how it could happen. With more deployments comes more stressors on families, including time away from normal jobs and more pressure on spouses who are not serving to take care of children and other responsibilities in the absence of the serving spouse.

Very often, however, the main reason these things occur with National Guard and reserves members are the same reasons that regular military service members struggle to benefit from promised programs such as the VA Medical System and college payment programs.

It’s because we love to wave flags and say how much we love and thank our troops, but when it actually comes time to support these men and women who put everything on the line for us, we often fall short of doing the hard work.

The true test of our nation, in my opinion, is how we take care of each other. The members of the National Guard and reserves have been taking care of us for the past year. How about we take care of them for a change?

Find ways to help, lean heavily on public officials to do what they can to support those who serve and, if you know someone in this position, help encourage them to seek assistance.

Support food banks, especially as they serve more and more people in the wake of COVID-19’s impacts and ensure that those in need know where to go for help.

We have asked much of them, but very often, they are afraid to ask for our help in return. Let’s make sure they don’t have to.

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