Governor and First Lady thank Virginia Guard personnel for their service

Governor Bob McDonnell shakes hands with Warrant Officer 4 Shane Leipertz of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment Sept. 11 in Sandston. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra Gatt, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell expressed their appreciation for the service of Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force and civilian employees Sept. 11 during a visit at Mullins Armory in Sandston.

“The First Lady and I wanted to come out today primarily to offer our thanks on behalf of the 8.3 million Virginians for the phenomenal work you do day in and day out not only to protect Virginians, but the lives of Americans around the country and all over the world,” McDonnell said. During his remarks, he talked about the impact of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. and said the Guard has made a “remarkable effort” in defending freedom in the wake of those attacks.

Since September 11, 2001, the Virginia National Guard has successfully mobilized almost 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations across the world as well as homeland defense missions in the United States. Virginia Guard missions overseas have included convoy security and base defense operations, command and control headquarters for active U. S. Army and NATO forces, combat aviation support, training and mentoring senior Afghan and Iraqi military and police leaders, logistics and sustainment operations and chaplain support.

“All of you who where the uniform know how much your lives have changed since 11 years ago,” he said, and added the Guard had performed their different missions “cheerfully, willingly and effectively.”

The Virginia Guard has lost 10 Soldiers to hostile enemy activity since beginning combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

McDonnell explained that his family knows first hand the difficult times families face during a military deployment. His daughter deployed to Iraq in 2005.

“Your families have endured a tough time as a result of what you had to do for your state and for your nation, and we are incredibly grateful,” he said.

He also commended the Virginia Guard for their response to severe weather during his time as governor whether is was during snowstorms, floods or severe thunderstorms. “I couldn’t be any more pleased,” he said of the Guard’s support for state active duty missions.

After the severe thunderstorms struck Virginia in June, the Virginia Guard brought more than 200 personnel on state active duty to support recovery operations. Soldiers distributed water and ice in Bedford, conducted reconnaissance patrols in the Fredericksburg and Lexington areas and Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force provided mission command and sustainment support in Sandston and Fort Pickett. Last year during Hurricane Irene, more than 350 Virginia Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force helped clear fallen trees, rescued stranded motorist and maintain communications capabilities. After the storm has passed through Virginia and impacted Vermont, 20 Soldiers helped with the effort to rebuild roads damaged by the storms.

“At the end of the day, what is great about our country is that we have men and women like you that care so much about freedom and so much about the ideals of what our country stands for, that you are willing to go halfway around the world to fight for people you don’t even know,” McDonnell said. “It really is an extraordinary thing.”


View photos from the event on the Virginia Guard Flickr site:

View photos from the event from the Governor’s photographer: