Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day) is Nov. 11, as it has been for 100 years. With all the focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, national and local elections and racial unrest, there is plenty to distract the average Louisiana citizen from pausing on that day to reflect on the meaning of Veterans Day. But something significant is also happening that most Louisiana citizens probably don’t know about.
On Nov. 12, there will be a departure event for elements of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256 Brigade Combat Team. The Tiger Brigade is deploying almost 2,000 soldiers to a combat zone in the Middle East for 12 months.
This will be the third such mobilization for the 256th, which also deployed in 2004 and 2010. Having proved their mettle during the most significant (and deadly) counterinsurgency operations in support of the Global War on Terror, the combat brigades in the National Guard have become part of the Army’s operational force. That is, part of the “A Team” in defense of our country and its national security interests.
The Guard performs the same missions, endures the same hardships/sacrifices and faces the same risks as their active duty brothers and sisters. We in Louisiana have suffered and endured the losses to prove it.
Preparing for deployments are grueling and require much more time and sacrifice than just one weekend per month. And while the 256th is preparing for its combat mission (performed in a federal status) they have also been supporting their state mission since March by continuously helping state and local authorities during the pandemic. On top of the COVID-19 support, they have responded to two major hurricanes in southwestern Louisiana as well as numerous smaller natural disasters.
As a society, we have correctly recognized and appreciated the sacrifices of the many medical professionals that have served the victims of the pandemic. They have truly been at war with the coronavirus. We use terms like “front lines” and heroes to convey an appropriate level of sacrifice and courage usually reserved for the military.
I am asking that we not forget the soldiers of the Tiger Brigade who will be on the front lines in a country not their own. They will be separated from their families for 12 months.
But sadly, all of their sacrifice and courage will not make the national evening news.
Make it a point to determine if any of these soldiers live near you. Reach out to them and offer your support to their families.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BASILICA Jr.
commander, 256th Brigade Combat Team, retired