With Christmas fast approaching many of us are planning to spend time with family. For members of the military, Christmas serves as a reminder that they cannot be with their loved ones. Now that military operations are ending in Iraq, many more service members will be home for Christmas.
Just this week 18 Arkansas soldiers returned home from Iraq with the Fort Hood based 1st Cavalry Division. 10 more Arkansans are scheduled to return through Fort Hood early Saturday morning. That final arrival will mark the first time since 2003 that all Arkansas Guard units will be home for Christmas.
While deployed, Arkansas Soldiers served in Tallil, Iraq and provided corps-level command and control for all aviation assets. The unit was originally slated for a full 12-month mobilization, but the end of U.S. operations in Iraq provided an early return for the Soldiers with the first wave of 80 troops returning home just before Thanksgiving.
Regardless of individual feelings about the conflict in Iraq, all Americans can be proud of our troops. These brave men and women have selflessly served our nation and protected our freedoms, often at great personal risk. As an Army veteran, I can appreciate the sacrifice every solider makes. Each day that a solider is deployed is a day that the solider does not see their child grow up, a day that the solider cannot hug their spouse and a day that the solider is put in danger.
While operations in Iraq have ended, the Arkansas National Guard continues to prepare approximately 3,000 of its Soldiers for a potential mobilization to Afghanistan next summer. Let us not forget the thousands of soldiers stationed on military bases around the world. Most of these soldiers will not be home for Christmas, or many months thereafter.
Join me in praying for all members of the Armed Forces this Christmas season. May God bless them and their families.