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A Wisconsin National Guard Soldier embraces his family at an Oct. 4 sendoff ceremony at Volk Field, Wis., for the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters, which is deploying in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. There, the approximately 165 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers will serve as the headquarters element overseeing a group of multinational Partner and Advise Training Teams — or PATTs — based at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Sgt. Alex Baum

Every year at Thanksgiving, I take stock of many, many blessings in my life. I’m grateful for my wife, my family, my dogs, and to live in the United States here in Wisconsin.

As Wisconsin’s Adjutant General, I am incredibly thankful for the Soldiers and Airmen of the Wisconsin National Guard and their families. I join all Wisconsinites in saying that we are grateful for your service and sacrifice on behalf of our state and nation.

Perhaps it’s fitting that November is Military Family Month. While our Soldiers and Airmen rightfully receive a fair amount of well-deserved praise and accolades, I want to take a moment to recognize those that stand behind our men and women in uniform. It is you, the spouse, parent, son, or daughter, who anxiously awaits the return of your Soldier or Airmen after a deployment to a combat theater.

As we approach the holiday season this year, we have hundreds of service members deployed for combat missions around the globe, and hundreds more who just recently returned. All the while, it was you who had to take on the extra duties associated with the extended absence of a member of your family.

A Wisconsin National Guard Soldier is greeted by her family and friends during a homecoming ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery May 23 at the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee. The battalion completed a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Spartan Shield and Freedom’s Sentinel. The High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) unit includes a headquarters unit in Milwaukee, firing batteries in Plymouth, Wis., and Sussex, Wis., and the 108th Forward Support Company, also based in Sussex. The battalion operated in 10 locations across five countries. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Eggers

It was you, the mothers and fathers, who worry day and night and prayed for your Soldier or Airman’s safe return.

It was you, the families, who quietly assumed the extra burdens of shoveling the driveway, mowing the lawn, putting the children to bed, making meals, and getting the kids to school when your service member is away at training, on a deployment, or at drill weekend. It’s also you who have to pick up the pieces when an unexpected emergency arises and your Guardsman responds within hours.

It can be hard for a son or daughter to understand why your mother or father can’t always be there at your tee-ball game or your dance recital, or why they missed your birthday while they were away for training or on a mission. Just know that while you are often asked to share your loved one with the Wisconsin National Guard, you also become part of our organization’s extended family.

I want you to know that your sacrifice is appreciated just as much as those that wear the uniform. In many ways, you have the tougher job – carrying on as our service members do the bidding of our state and nation. Being in the National Guard is a tough job. No doubt about it. Our Soldiers and Airmen are asked to remain ready to answer the call of our state or nation. That requires a tremendous amount of time and commitment. They do all that while balancing a full-time job, school, and their family lives. That’s why it is so critical to have loving and supportive families behind them.

Let me be clear, we couldn’t do what we do without you. It is your love, support, and understanding that sustains our Guardsmen – the Soldiers and Airmen in our formations, and allows them to focus on their critical no-fail missions.

While incredibly proud of their service and professionalism, I’m equally proud and grateful for the tens of thousands of Wisconsin family members that make service in the National Guard and our military possible.

I love this country and I’m proud to serve with your Soldiers and Airmen. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your support.