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7 Ways to Thank National Guardsmen & Reservists
Members of the National Guard and reserve provide a unique service to our nation by serving as both citizens and warriors. They are an extraordinary example of responsibility and commitment. They may be called to active-duty service at any time to help with relief efforts of natural disasters, national emergencies and other crises, as well as serve in a combat environment. These service members deserve our thanks for their dedication and sacrifice, and our support in helping them transition from civilian to warfighter and back.
This article highlights some of the unique challenges faced by members of the National Guard and reserve, as well as ways to thank them for their service.
Common Reintegration Challenges for National Guardsmen and Reservists
Members of the National Guard and reserve face unique challenges associated with their roles as warriors and civilians that differ from their active-duty counterparts. For example:
- They typically return to their civilian careers within days or weeks of their return, leaving little time to readjust and decompress from the stressors of deployment.1
- They reintegrate into civilian life with fewer support networks and social structures compared to active-duty service members. For example, National Guard and reserve members may return as the only individual in their neighborhood who has deployed.2
- Certain barriers to care may prevent them from seeking care or support for psychological health concerns. For example, since members of the National Guard and reserve live in civilian communities, they may be located further away from military treatment facilities or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and care facilities.3
- They may face the perception that their service was "time off" from their "real" lives and civilian jobs.4
To help members of the National Guard and reserve overcome reintegration challenges, there are meaningful ways we can show thanks and assist our citizen-warriors throughout the deployment cycle and while at home. Throughout the year, you can honor them and their families in the following ways:
1. Promote Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program events.
One way to say thank you is to encourage members of the National Guard and reserve to take advantage of specialized resources available to aid in their adjustment. The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program organizes events for warriors and their families at all phases of deployment, from pre-mobilization to deployment to post-deployment. These gatherings provide support and link participants with services and information for coping with challenges caused by separation and combat-related stress. View the Yellow Ribbon Event Planner for local events and encourage National Guardsmen and reservists you know to get involved.
To learn more about the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, read the Real Warriors Campaign article, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program: Support for Guard and Reserve.
2. Volunteer at a VA medical facility.
Warriors may come back with visible and invisible wounds that often require ongoing medical care and support. Donate your time and talents by volunteering at a VA medical facility or assisting warriors with transportation to and from medical appointments by joining the Volunteer Transportation Network. To get started, visit the VA Voluntary Service Office website and fill out a volunteer form or contact the Voluntary Service Office directly at 202-461-7300.
3. Participate in a community event to welcome home members of the National Guard and reserve.
Contact your local community center or military installation to find out about community events that will provide a warm and patriotic welcome home for our warriors. Also, VA sponsors welcome home events around the country for returning military service members and their families. Visit the event schedule to see if there is an event in your area.
4. Help make reintegration into civilian employment easier for National Guard and reserve members.
If you are an employer, you’re in a great position to thank and support citizen-warriors who work for you. A National Guardsmen’s or reservists’ return to work following a deployment or mobilization often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and a broadened perspective that can be invaluable to an organization. Show your support by fostering respect and integration of the returning service member. For example, if the service member is comfortable with a welcome back event, you can foster cohesion and a sense of community by planning a breakfast, lunch or an office party.
5. Volunteer for a community organization that provides child care services for National Guard and reserve families.
Consider volunteering for a well-established community organization that provides child care services for military families. By helping National Guard and reserve members coordinate child care, you can contribute to strengthening their families’ psychological well-being and resilience. Community organizations that partner with the military to provide child care services include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Child Care Aware of America and the YMCA.
6. Promote psychological health care resources for National Guard and reserve members during times of transition.
If a member of the National Guard or reserve is looking at an upcoming change in status, new orders, relocation or return to civilian life, and they are currently receiving psychological health care, encourage them to get support during the transition. One resource you can point them to is inTransition. The program will assign the service member to a personal coach who provides one-on-one support, connect the service member with a new health care provider and empower them with tools to continue making healthy life choices. To learn more about inTransition coaching and tools call 800-424-7877 (toll-free inside the U.S.) or 800-424-4685 (DSN, toll-free outside the U.S.) or visit www.health.mil/intransition.
Guard Your Health is a resource for Army National Guard soldiers and family members to find health-related tools and information. The site has sections dedicated to behavioral health, alcohol & drug use, sleep health, suicide prevention and many other important topics to make medical readiness part of their personal mission.
7. Volunteer your time.
Donating your time and talents by volunteering is a great way to give back to the National Guard and reserve community. There are a number of organizations dedicated to supporting members of the National Guard and reserve:
- Check out Adopt-a-Unit programs through organizations like the American Legion.
- Get involved with the United Services Organization, which supports National Guard and reserve units and offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities.
- Be sure to check out other Real Warriors Campaign Partners to see additional opportunities to volunteer.
Comprising almost half of our armed forces, members of the National Guard and reserve serve our nation at home and abroad as citizen warriors. If you know a member of these components, be sure to thank them for their dedicated and loyal service.
- Navigating VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve
- Joint Services Support
- National Resource Directory
- Resources for Transitioning Back to School
- Guard Your Health
1 "How to Adjust to Civilian Life after Combat Duty with the Guard or Reserve," Military One Source. Last accessed Nov. 16, 2014.
3 "An Achievable Vision: Report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health," [PDF 591.42 KB] Defense Department. Published June 2007.