It's no secret that the National Guard played a large role in the war on terror. Guard and Reserve units made up about 45 percent of the total force sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and received about 18.4 percent of the casualties. With hundreds of thousands of men and women having served, the National Guard has more than earned a place of remembrance for its part in the 14 year war. In celebration of the National Guard's birthday, here are several stories, a very small sample, of courage, duty, and sacrifice.
The Battle of Bismarck
Regardless of the MOS or mission, serving in a warzone is never safe. For 14 members of the Nebraska Army National Guard, this reality was driven home when their convoy was hit by insurgents. On March 20, 2005, a line of 33 vehicles was stalled in the road by a van that had been flipped over by an IED. With impassible mud on either side of the thin road, 40 to 50 combatants appeared and fired on the convoy with automatic rifles and RPGs. Immediately, the Guardsmen began simultaneously firing back on the attackers and helping civilian drivers stay calm and clear the road.
Eventually, a unit of Kentucky Guardsmen arrived and helped repel the attack. After 20 minutes of fighting, four of the Nebraska Guardsmen were wounded and later recovered while the remaining 10 continued with the mission. Each year, the 14 Nebraskans gather to reconnect and celebrate their lives.
Florida National Guard 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
Although the invasion of Iraq took place in 2003, service members had been operating well before then to clear a path for the main force. Members of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed in late December of 2002 to do just that. These service members were part of a force including members of the 5th Special Forces Group and other Florida National Guard units. Guardsmen from Company C, 2nd Battalion cut through two earthen berms between Jordan and Iraq using hand tools; they forewent larger hardware to maintain secrecy. This successful mission allowed special operations forces to secure Basra and its surrounding oil fields.
Surviving Mortar Fire
Any service member who's deployed knows that few, if any, locations are immune to attack. Former National Guardsman William Gunter understands that reality in very personal terms. While serving as a cook in Iraq on September 18th of 2003, Gunter was working in the kitchen at Logistics Base Seitz.
On that day, the base took mortar fire. While working on restoring a burner, a round penetrated the kitchen and sent 12 rounds of shrapnel into his body. After experiencing a general burning sensation on his neck, he tried to walk out of the kitchen but needed to sit down. Thankfully, several of his fellow soldiers ran into the kitchen and helped him with his injuries. Three pieces of shrapnel still remain in Gunter's body, and he continued serving the military until 2012.