As we observe Memorial Day this year, I would like to ask all Nebraskans to take a moment reflect upon the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Nebraska National Guard, and the excellent work they are doing on our behalf. This is historically a time to remember and honor the sacrifices of our state's fallen service members
Long before the start of the Global War on Terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001, the members of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard were fully engaged in a variety of on-going operations overseas, including missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Persian Gulf. However, with the start of the current conflict, the commitments of the Nebraska National Guard to support overseas and domestic operations have grown exponentially and continue today.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 3,600 soldiers and airmen from the 4,900-member Nebraska Army and Air National Guard have deployed overseas in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. These soldiers and airmen have performed admirably under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable, earning Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts and other many other commendations for heroism under fire.
We've said farewell to nine Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The memories of Jacob Schmuecker of Norfolk, William Bailey of Bellevue, Randy Matheny of McCook, Germaine Debro of Omaha, Jeffrey Hansen of Cairo, Joshua Ford of Pender, Tricia Jameson of Omaha, Jeremy Fischer of Lincoln, and Linda Tarrango-Griess of Sutton will be forever treasured by a very grateful state and nation, as will the memory of our other brave Nebraskans who have fallen during the Global War on Terrorism while serving in the armed forces.
While our Nebraska National Guard men and women have been exceptionally busy in the past, the upcoming year looks even more so with hundreds of soldiers and airmen currently preparing for upcoming deployments beginning this summer. By the end of 2010, approximately 1,200 Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers will be deployed overseas supporting missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Additionally, another 350 members of the Nebraska Air National Guard will be deploying overseas and domestically in support of a wide array of missions.
Currently, members of the Nebraska Army National Guard's 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, a Lincoln-based organization that has units located in Hastings, Beatrice and Fremont, are completing a multi-week exercise at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming, to prepare for an overseas deployment later this summer. Along with the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, soldiers from units located in Grand Island, Nebraska City, Wahoo, Hastings and Omaha will also be mobilizing in the upcoming months for a variety of overseas missions that will ultimately make 2010-11 one of the busiest years for the Nebraska Army National Guard since the start of the war.
As Governor, one of my proudest moments is when I represent the citizens of Nebraska during a send-off or welcome home ceremony for one of our National Guard units. Many of these brave men and women serve part-time in our National Guard, but are our full-time neighbors and valuable community members. It is humbling to watch as these courageous soldiers and airmen are wished farewell by their equally valiant families and then welcomed home again to our great State approximately one year later.
The community support our soldiers and their families receive is extraordinary. Every person that has ever attended a send-off or welcome home ceremony is deeply impacted by what he or she experiences.
Recently, I attended the welcome home ceremony for the members of the Nebraska Army National Guard's 1195th Transportation Company as they completed a year-long mission in Iraq. The reception these soldiers received from Kearney and the surrounding area was incredible. Thousands of Nebraskans lined the streets of Kearney, many holding signs and flags, to show their support and appreciation for what these Nebraska National Guard soldiers and their families had accomplished on our behalf.
As the war has gone on, our commitments to our National Guard soldiers and airmen, their families and their employers have evolved. Today, we provide a wide variety of services to our soldiers and airmen, their families and employers designed to assist them before, during and after their deployments. These include peer-to-peer counseling sessions, Yellow Ribbon Program workshops designed to prepare families for the stresses they will undergo during long separations, Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve activities, marriage enrichment seminars, and youth programs, to name just a few.
During Memorial Day weekend, I ask you to honor our fallen heroes and to keep the members of the Nebraska National Guard, their families and their employers in our thoughts and prayers. They are exceptional Nebraskans and great Americans.