We still have a small number of National Guard soldiers left in Minnesota. Vanessa and I make a point to drive past one of the areas they’re stationed when we are out, just so we can say, “Thank you” as we drive by.

If there were only one thing I could change about my past, it would be to have served in the armed forces before transitioning into adulthood.

My father served in the Army in Vietnam. He was in the midst of numerous battles as part of the Red Warriors. His last one landed him in the hospital with the back of his body filled with shrapnel. Eight of his fellow soldiers died that day, and 39 others were injured. The battle report from May 27, 1969 could be a movie script.

During his tour, he earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with Valor, and Silver Star. You’d never know it, though, unless you asked him.

After his time in the Army, he joined the National Guard. He also worked two jobs and guided fishing trips in Northern Minnesota on the weekends to make sure we had what we needed. In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty freaking proud of him (and my mom as well, but I’ll talk about her another time).

My father-in-law, Ray Romero, is also a Vietnam vet. Like my dad, he doesn’t talk much about getting drafted, and gave no consideration to not joining the Army once he was drafted. Ray’s parents immigrated from Mexico just before he was born.

And, like many reading this, I have quite a few friends who serve in the military today.

Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard

John F Kennedy

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Call In The Guard

Following the George Floyd murder, the riots in Minnesota got out of hand.

Eventually, the National Guard was called and activated to help restore order and safety around the Minneapolis metro area. If the National Guard had been activated sooner, maybe Minnesota could have set the example for peaceful protests and limited rioting and property damage.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. A lot of damage was done before they stepped in, and that pattern repeated itself across the country.

The intention of bringing in The Guard was to quell the rioting. To bring safety to the community. To help stop the destruction of businesses and other property. To reduce the risk that outside groups would exacerbate the violence already seen.

They were not brought in to stop peaceful protesting, though some media sources might have portrayed that perspective. 

Disrespected

How were they welcomed?

Most showed them the respect they deserve. Some did not.

Each time I saw a photo or video, or read a story of how our soldiers were mistreated, I pictured my friends, my father-in-law, and my dad  as those soldiers.

I imagined them absorbing the hate-filled words and standing tall. Heads held high. 

Scream at Them and They’d Still Save You

It was painful to imagine those I knew taking such punishment from the people they volunteered to protect. Then, I came across this video:

I watched and listened in disbelief. This thought occured to me…

These soldiers who absorb abuse from their own countrymen and countrywomen would willingly put their lives on the line to protect those who show them such disrespect.

Our soldiers — active duty, National Guard, Secret Service — put the protection of our country and its people ahead of themselves every day. Most law enforcement officers do as well.

We may never fully appreciate what that means. I do know that on May 27, 1969, had a grenade exploded a little closer to my dad, he would have never been my dad, and I wouldn’t be here. 

I’ll continue to show my respect and gratitude for our soldiers’ commitment to our country. I hope we all eventually understand what their commitment truly means.

By the way, if someone knows the National Guard soldier in the video above, please let me know how I could reach his unit command. I’d like to send him something to show my appreciation for his service, and for maintaining such composure while taking such a massive amount of verbal abuse.