PRESS RELEASE from Veterans for America via PRNewsire-USNewswire

Veterans for America Urges Recognition of National Guard

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When the presidential candidates met last night for their first debate, each spoke about their commitment to the military -- but avoided talking about the dire situation now facing our National Guard, which has shipped off more than 660,000 members to sustain deployment policy in the last seven years. It is impossible to speak directly to the strained state of our military without acknowledging the overwhelming burdens on our citizen-Soldiers posed by current deployment policy.

Veterans for America (VFA) is dismayed that both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, failed to mention our National Guard this evening when they had ample opportunities to do just that. They could have mentioned that our National Guard and Reserves now account for 52 percent of the veterans returning from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. They could have reminded Americans that more than half of the Army Guard combat units now deploying to Iraq will be on their second tour, with too little rest between deployments by even the Pentagon's own standards.

Our candidates for the highest office in the land must acknowledge these facts if they are to understand the depths of the strain facing our military. And the fallout from this strain will continue to harm our Guard down the road: half of the Guard members who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer combat-related psychological wounds -- a rate 25 percent higher than their active-duty counterparts.

"Sending our National Guard back into battle, without enough rest, knowingly compounds the wounds of wars," said Bobby Muller, the president of Veterans for America. "We owe our National Guard and our Guard families far more than this. And the candidates for president owe it to them to acknowledge their sacrifices and to offer a solution."

VFA has been on the ground working with National Guard members and their families in Delaware, Arkansas, Arizona, and Illinois -- and it's clear current policy can't be sustained without continuing to inflict a horrible price. Ongoing deployments are breaking our National Guard, straining our military families, eroding military readiness and leaving ourselves less protected at home in the face of catastrophe.