The fight for freedom doesn’t fall on just active duty military members.
When additional forces are needed to relieve active duty personnel, it’s reserve and National Guard members who step up.
To celebrate these citizen soldiers, more than 75 people attended the final installment of the 2014 Heroes Among Us speaker series Oct. 31.
"I spent my time (as active duty) already, so I decided to come out of the military,” said Retired Florida Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Shannon Peavy to the crowd as the sun set over Veterans Memorial Park.
"But I still had it in my blood. I knew about the National Guard — I still wanted to join, I just didn’t want to do it full time because I wanted to watch my kids grow up since they were still little at the time. So that’s the reason I joined the Guard,” said Peavy, who served 12 and half years active duty before he transitioned to the Guard.
While there is an option to be active duty, generally National Guard members have a drill schedule that includes training assemblies one weekend every month. This schedule begins after 10 weeks of basic combat training, followed by advanced individual training. Time frames for this phase depend on the Military Occupational Specialty the member chooses.
During basic training, Guard members learn a variety of skills including leadership and lifesaving techniques, care and use of Army weapon systems, military customs and services, and more. They also get into top physical shape.
The advanced training prepares them for the specifics of their specialty. There are more than 150 Guard jobs available from military police work and health care to engineering and infantry.
Staff Sgt. James Whitman has been in the Guard Reserve for 23 years. He enjoys the opportunities the Guard offers, especially because he has a part-time job with full-time benefits.
"Being in the Guard, we have additional skills,” Whitman said. "We’re soldiers but because we work our civilian jobs, we have skills that carry over to our military jobs as well.”
Peavy, who served in the Gulf War and Iraqi Freedom, and Whitman, who served in Iraqi Freedom, recall how those additional skills came in handy. When their air conditioner broke down in the desert, a fellow soldier — whose civilian job happened to be in A/C repair — was able to fix it. When a vehicle broke down, a soldier in car repair was quickly able to get them back on the road.
"Between all of us, we were able to fix anything,” Whitman said.
Through the National Guard, Peavy and Whitman have had the opportunity to travel, meet lifelong friends and add to their list of skills.
And Guard members are often called to duty locally making it possible to provide assistance directly to their hometown.
The popular Heroes Among Us speaker series will begin its third year on May 29. Featured speakers include veterans from every service branch and generation. The series is hosted by the local Marine Corps League J.R. Spears Detachment 066 and supports the Marines in Distress Fund. This year, the program raised $10,000 for the fund.More Public Affairs