Sen. Kaine visits families of deployed 1710th Trans. Co. Soldiers

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

EMPORIA, Va. – Family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group joined with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia National Guard for a round table discussion with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, April 30, 2013, at the readiness center in Emporia, Va.

The goal of the discussion was to give Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. Senate, a chance to discuss the unique challenges Guard families face during deployments.

“I just want to make sure that I’m acting with as much knowledge as I can have,” Kaine told the group. “The guardsmen and women in this commonwealth and their families sacrifice in a tremendous way, and I feel like it is often the case that guardsmen and women don’t get the attention they deserve for their sacrifices.”

Kaine told the group that the Armed Services Committee is currently working on the defense budget for 2014.

“I want to make sure we do the right thing, generally, but I want to make sure we do the right thing by the Guard and by families. That’s why I’m here,” Kaine said.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

After Kaine introduced himself to the group and explained his goal in meeting with the family members of the 1710th Transportation Company, he invited the family members and other guests present to introduce themselves and share their backgrounds with the group. Among those present were the children, spouses, parents and friends of 1710th Soldiers, as well as several representatives from Va. Guard Family Programs and representatives from the 1710th and the 529th CSSB, and Virginia Delegate Roslyn Tyler, from Virginia’s 75th district, which includes Emporia.

Tabitha Rhodes, who heads the 1710th’s family readiness group, said, “I don’t know what we would do without family support. The family assistance program is huge for us. Guard deployments are nothing like active duty deployments. With the active duty, we’re all right there together…In the Guard, we’re just all over the place and we have to keep in touch with each other and we have to make an effort to do that. It’s hard, but we get through it and we will get through it.”

Following introductions, Kaine opened the floor for discussion. “Tell me what I need to know to do a good job as a senator to advocate for guardsmen and women and their families,” he said.

Family members brought up a variety of issues, including concern over impending budget changes that may affect military members and their families, the struggle of finding employment after deployments, and how difficult it can be for Guard members and their families, as well as their communities, to adjust when deployments are canceled or cut short.

Rhodes encouraged the senator to remind his colleagues in the Senate of the ongoing war. “It’s up to our representatives to remind them that we are at war, that budget cuts do matter, that there is an impact – you may not see it in your state, but it’s going to impact the nation as a whole because it’s a volunteer army, it’s a volunteer service,” she said. “It’s a big deal, and if we don’t keep talking about it, they’ll forget.”

Kaine closed the meeting by thanking the family members for their support and for the service of their Soldiers. “The Guard is so good at what they do,” he said. “I really appreciate everyone taking the time to do this today. This is very, very helpful for me. I never want to cast a vote, like about budgets, just by looking at numbers on a page.”

Approximately 160 Soldiers from the 1710th entered federal active duty on April 1, 2013, and are conducting mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas. The Soldiers will head to Afghanistan later this spring where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy security for military and host nation convoys.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine participates in a round table discussion with family members and friends of deployed Soldiers assigned to the 1710th Transportation Company, along with representatives from Virginia Guard Family Programs and the Virginia Guard, April 30, 2013, in Emporia, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra. C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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Photos: Sen. Kaine visits with family members of deployed 1710th Trans. Co. – April 30, 2013