|Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism. Representatives from the Texas National Guard hosted a ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibit called "9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. The exhibit highlights the extraordinary contributions of the 23,000 Texas Army and Air National Guard service members who have deployed in support of the global war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001.
Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service
Story by Luke Elliot
AUSTIN, Texas - Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen, dignitaries and community members gathered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Sept. 10 to commemorate a decade of Texas military support to the global war on terrorism with the opening of a new historical exhibit.
Texas Adjutant Gen. Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols hosted the ceremony, which celebrating a new exhibit called "9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
"The Texas National Guard has deployed more soldiers than any other national guard to this war," said Nichols, who noted that the Texas National Guard has mobilized more than 29,000 soldiers and airmen since 2001, with about 23,000 of them deploying overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Texas military forces have sacrificed greatly."
The exhibit includes displays on the Texas National Guard's support to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, major Texas National Guard deployments, and many interactive displays and presentations.
"We're very proud of our troops, especially for all the sacrifices that the members of the guard and their families make on behalf of our nation," said Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, District 29, El Paso, Texas. "I believe that Texas has always honored and supported its veterans. We're a proud state. We like to brag about our state, and we like to brag about our troops."
"I think it's extremely significant on the tenth anniversary to open up an exhibit like this at Camp Mabry because it is important, as Gen. Nichols said, to make sure people remember this day, remember the people who gave their lives," said Rodriguez.
Brig. Gen. William Smith, who returned from Iraq a few days before the ceremony, said he was surprised about the emotions the event brought him.
"It just makes me respect our soldiers and the abilities that they have and the things they are doing," said Smith. "It's always a good thing to see other people acknowledge what those soldiers are doing."
Smith, who served as the assistant division commander for maneuver, 36th Infantry Division, also deployed with the 49th Armor Division shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
This deployment was the first large-scale mobilization of the National Guard since World War II.
"It was a huge challenge," said Smith. "It's been an almost continuous cycle since. If you go back in time, you'll find that since Sept. 11, we have had somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Texas National Guardsmen deployed every year. That's a tribute to the sustainability of our system and more importantly to our soldiers."
Smith added that the Texas National Guard has changed significantly since 2001.
"We have had a couple of major events in the military that have changed the course of how we do business," said Smith. "For instance, if you find a regulation that was written before 1989, before the fall of the wall…it is probably not valid. If you find something that was written before 2001, it probably is suspect at least because everything has changed for us since 2001."
"This is not our fathers' National Guard," he added. "It's a marketable different organizations that we're in."
A common theme at the event was the display of gratitude toward soldiers and airmen for all they have accomplished during the past decade.
"What you do is inspirational. I appreciate you," said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "God bless every one of you all in our Texas Army and Air National Guard. Thank you all the men and women that serve abroad, and may we never forget the 3,000 innocent men and women who lost their lives on 9/11."