Adjutant General’s 2017 Veterans Day Message

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams

SANDSTON, Va. — Each year on November 11 we honor the brave men and women from all walks of life who answered our nation’s call and defended the ideals of freedom all over the globe. Veterans Day is a celebration that recognizes the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who serve today with honor and distinction, as well as those who served before us. We say “thank you” not only to them, but also to their families, for they too have served and sacrificed for our nation. We also owe a special thanks to our employers whose support is so critical to the success of the Guard mission.

For the Virginia National Guard, this Veterans Day is significant as this year marks the 100th anniversary of many of the units in our formation today as well as marking the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. This year is also unique because for one of the few times in the last 16 years, no Virginia National Guard units are serving on federal active duty on Veterans Day.

The Virginia Guard traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and there has been a military presence defending the commonwealth ever since. Virginia militia units served through the colonial era, Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and American Civil War, and the federalization of militia units to defend the U. S. border from hostile Mexican revolutionaries from 1916 to 1917 helped prepare the troops for service in World War I.

World War I marked the first time that volunteer state militia units were activated for federal duty under a formal Army structure and deployed overseas for combat operations. Guard Soldiers served with courage, honor and distinction, and that tradition continues on today as our Guard personnel have deployed all over the world.

Our Soldiers and Airmen continue effectively manage the demands of being a dual-status force that provides a combat reserve to help fight our nation’s wars and a response force to aid the citizens of the commonwealth. In the last 18 months, more than 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in last 18 months, and conducted a wide variety of missions including combat fighter jet operations, mission command, military-to-military partnership building, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. They join the nearly 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.

For example, more than 70 Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 192nd Fighter Wing’s 192nd Maintenance Group and 149th Fighter Squadron returned to Langley Air Force Base in October after a six-month deployment to the Middle East. During their deployment, F-22 Raptors participated in Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Virginia and Maryland National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division returned to Virginia in July after serving on federal active duty since November 2016. The Soldiers served in the Middle East in support of Task Force Spartan Shield as the first intermediate division headquarters under U.S. Army Central Command. During the deployment, the 29th ID Soldiers provided mission command for joint training exercises and military-to-military engagements with partner nations to promote regional stability and theater security cooperation.

While we are fortunate to have all of our units home now and over the upcoming holiday season, we know that next year more units will enter federal active duty and face significant challenges. Our Soldiers and Airmen are also stepping up to make sure we are able to meet the demands of being ready to respond to an uncertain, changing global environment.

Regardless of the military branch our veterans have served – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard – this day belongs to all of them and to the vast generations of patriots who served before them. From the Minutemen who won our independence, to today’s warriors deterring aggression all around the world, the generations of patriots who dedicated themselves to the defense of our country make us stronger and more resilient as a nation. These men and women carry on the proud legacy and traditions of all our nation’s veterans who have, throughout our history, kept us free. Today, we say thanks to them all.

It is truly and honor to serve with you.

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams
The 28th Adjutant General of Virginia