News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Iraq war continues to take toll on National Guard units

The war in Iraq rarely fails to make Page One in newspapers across the country. Many days, the death toll or other events are the lead item on local and national television channels. But these rarely mention the high cost many states are paying through their National Guard soldiers.

Alabama, Mississippi and other Southern states lead the way in Guard enlistments and the numbers serving in Iraq are growing.

Alabama for instance, has more than 14,000 soldiers in the Army and Air National Guard.

The number called up for service in Iraq and other areas is staggering. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the date terrorists attacked America, about 10,000 of that 14,000 have been called to active duty.

Of that number, it is estimated about 1,500 are in Iraq, and 200 in Afghanistan.

The numbers are about to climb. Members of the 200th Engineer Battalion in Linden have begun training for Iraq. They are going to serve in a supervisory capacity over other Guard units when deployed. The troops currently are at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and will likely depart in January.

As Alabamians, we should be proud of the part our men and women in the Guard are playing in the war-torn areas of the world, be it in combat or support.

Many serving are from the Decatur-based Signal Corps battalion that draws members from across North Alabama, or Special Forces units headquartered here and in Huntsville.

These so-called "weekend warriors" are now full-time soldiers, many worrying about the same bullets that threaten regular Army, Marines and other servicemen in these dangerous areas.

During the holiday season, thousands sent packages to Iraq and other areas to help bolster the morale of these men and women. With the holidays winding down, it's easy to forget these soldiers we so freely support during special events, such as Christmas.

We should never forget these members of the Guard are our neighbors who had to leave their jobs and families to support this cause.

Keep your support at a high level. We encourage groups, organizations, schools and individuals to continue sending packages and letters that mean so much to our soldiers.

The 10,000 in the Guard represent only a small number of our Alabama soldiers, so be assured that if you send a package, it will be well received.

Let's make this a year-around commitment to support our troops. We know the effort will be appreciated.

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