We’re gratified, but not surprised, by the huge outpouring of support for four Louisiana National Guardsmen who died earlier this month in a helicopter crash during training near Pensacola, Florida. The men worked at the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Hammond.

Gone are the days when National Guard personnel were nicknamed weekend warriors. For at least a generation, in response to military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has come to heavily rely on National Guard units as a regular presence in conflicts abroad. The Hammond-based battalion’s service in combat missions overseas, as well as in rescue operations after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac, is a testament to the commitment that National Guard service often requires.

The four National Guardsmen who died in Florida paid the ultimate price for their country. Our hearts and prayers are with their loved ones.