Between now and the end of President George Bush's term in office on January 20, 2009, almost half of the Soldiers scheduled to deploy to Iraq are members of our National Guard. Never before in the history of our all-volunteer military have we relied so heavily on the National Guard for such a long period of time to serve overseas.
Over the past six plus years, we have sent over 260,000 members of our National Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan and while the focus and heated debate in Washington may have turned away from Iraq, every day, we are sending more and more members of the National Guard overseas.
So what does this mean? Well, even if you believe that recently we have seen signs of success in Iraq, the cost of maintaining current troops levels is simply too high -- we can not continue to use our National Guard in this manner without devastating consequences for our first-responder ability and for members of the National Guard, their families and their communities.
Recently, a team of staff members from Veterans for America spent days crisscrossing New Jersey, speaking to members of the National Guard and their families. The stories and statistics we heard prompted us to take a deeper look at what is happening across the country with the National Guard, and it truly is shocking.
We created an entire report on the upcoming deployment of National Guard troops and it is right on the front page of our web site, www.veteransforamerica.org -- here are some of the most important things I want you know.
- Almost half of the troops headed to Iraq from now to January 20, 2009 are members of the National Guard.
- More than half of these units will be on their second tour of Iraq.
- At least 35 states have deployed more National Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan than to any war since World War II.
- Over the next few months, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington will deploy a combined total of almost 20,000 National Guard troops.
- Beginning next spring, Pennsylvania and Texas are scheduled to deploy more members of their National Guard and Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin will deploy large portions of their National Guards.
From coast to coast, literally in every part of our country, our National Guard will be heading over to Iraq in staggering numbers. What is especially concerning to me is that the Department Of Defense found that members of the National Guard are 25% more likely to suffer from combat-related psychological wounds than members of active-duty Army. Clearly, our Guard members are not getting the support they need. The first step our country should take to limit the damage already done is to stop deploying them in such high numbers.
Our overreliance on our National Guard is another wake-up call to our elected officials, and one we should not let them sleep through. The sacrifices we are demanding from our Guard, and their families, are simply too much. We can't maintain this level of Guard deployments -- it is another cost of the war, and another cost that is too great for our country to bear.