Much has been made in the past of President Bush's past 'service' in the National Guard and specifically the fact that when he joined the National Guard, he pointedly checked the box:
Do Not Volunteer For Overseas.
As his term in office is coming to end, it is becoming increasingly clear that another tragic legacy of his time in office will be the demoralization and destruction of our National Guard. Never before in our country's history or in its own 370 year history has the National Guard been a front line force in a foreign war.
Consider these facts:
- Over 267,000 men and women of the National Guard have been deployed since September 11, 2001.
- 35 states have deployed more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan than to any war since World War II
- From now to the end of Bush's term in office, almost half of the troops deploying will be from the National Guard and of those, nearly half will be from units on their second tour.
Of all the statistics and stories I have read on this issue, many from the work I do with Veterans For America, one sticks out.
This fall, half of New Jersey's National Guard will be in Iraq, half.
What happens if there is another attack this fall at the end of the election cycle and half of New Jersey's National Guard is gone?
What happens if a hurricane strikes the Jersey Shore?
What happens if the National Guard is needed and they simply aren't there?
Other issues with Iraq get more attention, but the silent destruction of our National Guard and the impact of this administration's policies on the future of the guard are often over-looked. As this administration breaks with long-standing Guard policy, like the fact that the Guard used to give five times as much time at home as deployed, morale and enrollment in the Guard will surely decline.
It could get worse. John McCain's plan for Iraq means continued deployment of our National Guard overseas. The fact that rates of PTSD are higher among National Guard members or the fact that so many National Guard families have to rely on food stamps to survive, none of that matters to John McCain.
Thanks to a man who wouldn't go overseas when he was a member of the National Guard, we now have torn apart our nation's oldest military force and will be paying for it for years to come.
Here is the document George Bush checked and signed when he joined the National Guard.