On December 13, the National Guard celebrated its 376th birthday. Founded in 1636 to protect settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the National Guard was formed to guard from foreign threats, as well as disease and harsh weather conditions. Although much has changed since 1636, the core mission of the National Guard remains: to assist and support the states, as well as provide for our nation’s defense abroad.

We are fortunate here in South Dakota to have a strong National Guard. Thousands of South Dakotans, including my father, have stepped up to serve on behalf of our state. The combined efforts of the South Dakota Army National Guard and the South Dakota Air National Guard continue to make South Dakota proud. These brave men and women not only serve our nation’s interests overseas, but also assist South Dakota communities with raising levees to protect towns from rising flood waters, evacuate homeowners from raging forest fires, and build shelters for families whose homes have been destroyed by tornadoes.

The men and women serving in the South Dakota National Guard are often called away from their families and jobs, so it’s important that we form a community of support for these soldiers and their families. From assisting with the transition back to civilian life, providing additional job training, and building support networks for spouses and children here at home, we all have a role to play.

In the 113th Congress, I will have the honor and privilege of serving on the House Armed Services Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over our nation’s defense policy, ongoing military operations and the Department of Defense. I believe this committee assignment will allow me to ensure our military men and women continue to have the resources they need, both at home and abroad.

While many South Dakotans will soon be ringing in the New Year with friends and family, many of our fellow citizens will be away from theirs, just one of the untold sacrifices our servicemen and women make every day. Generations before us and generations after us will continue to serve and protect not only the great state of South Dakota, but our country and the Constitutional values that founded this great land. Although words alone will never be enough to convey my deep sense of gratitude, I encourage all South Dakotans to thank a National Guard member for all that they do on our behalf.

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