Washington, DC - Oct. 27, 2008 - As both presidential candidates campaign today in Pennsylvania, thousands of Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families are preparing for yet another deployment to war. A new report from Veterans for America highlights the tremendous strain gripping Pennsylvania’s National Guard because of current deployment policies and the risks this poses for the entire state. The next president owes it to Pennsylvania to explain how he will restore the health of the National Guard.
“One of the central challenges the next president will face is rebuilding the National Guard and Reserves following years of non-stop deployments and multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. As this new report documents, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard has paid an even heavier price, with many facing another deployment next year,” said Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, Jr., after reviewing VFA’s findings.
Pennsylvania’s 20,000 citizen Soldiers and members of the Air Guard rank among the largest Guard forces in the nation, and the most heavily deployed over the last seven years. The state has lost 43 Guard members in the Global War on Terror, more than any other. And the deployments continue at a breakneck pace, with more than 5,000 Pennsylvania National Guard members scheduled to deploy in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom within the next two years.
The speed and size of repeated deployments – many Pennsylvania Guard members are preparing for their third combat tours – are saddling Guard members and their families with needs that overmatch available resources.
“Readiness is more than just a matter of equipment. It’s a matter of making sure that these brave men and women have the necessary time at home to recover from their experiences in a war zone, reconnect with their families, and train for all the missions for which they are responsible, both at home and abroad. The Pennsylvania National Guard is one of the most deployed in the nation and it’s time that the current administration recognized that,” said Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. “I’m grateful to VFA for listening to the concerns of the citizen Soldiers of the Pennsylvania National Guard and for bringing these issues to the nation’s attention.”
With one week left in the presidential campaign, it is vital the candidates not treat Pennsylvania as an elaborate political stage. Pennsylvania’s citizen Soldiers, their families and their communities are under tremendous strain, and the next president owes it to our National Guard to explain how he will honor their sacrifices.