The Families Who Serve
By Rep. Kristi Noem
This February in the Harrisburg High School gym, a young girl stepped up to the microphone, took a deep breath, and shared with each of us her heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem. As each of us looked to the Stars and Stripes with hand over heart, the air in the room became noticeably heavier. We were hearing our anthem not because it was almost time for tip-off, but because 39 soldiers from the South Dakota National Guard’s 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were about to deploy to Kuwait.
I have the utmost respect and gratitude for those who volunteer to serve in our military. It is because of them that we can live the lives that we do. But I’m also careful to remember that service is not something only those in uniform do. Their families serve alongside them.
April has been set aside as the Month of the Military Child. In South Dakota, there are more than 7,100 military children whose parents serve in the National Guard, the Reserves, or active duty. Regardless of whether their parent is at home, at drill, or deployed, the grit and resilience of these young people help enable their parents to serve.
South Dakota has always done a good job of keeping family at the center of everything we do and our military organizations are no different. In three of the last four years, South Dakota National Guard units have been nationally recognized with the Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Award. These repeated awards speak to the integrity and value-system of the South Dakota National Guard, our service members, and their leadership.
While the military’s support for families of service members is mission critical, we, as civilians, share in that responsibility. I was blown away by the attendance at the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade deployment ceremony in Harrisburg. The event was initially to be held in a much smaller room, but the community came out in overwhelming support. It was truly incredible to see around 400 South Dakotans stand up in support of our men and women in uniform, letting the soldiers know they had a community back home to support their families in the months to come.
Our support for service members and military families must go far beyond the moment of deployment. Having a parent away at drill is tough. Just knowing they could be deployed is tough. Readjusting to life after a parent returns home from a war zone is really, really tough. Throughout April, I encourage you to consider how we can be more supportive of military kids at every stage of service. Just as that young girl sang last February in the Harrisburg High School gym, we are able to live in the land of the free, because we are home to the brave service members in uniform and the families who stand behind them.