When I was 19, I joined the Army National Guard. I went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I got yelled at a lot, I did a ton of push-ups and learned that I am a fair shot with a rifle.
The six years I spent in the guard took place in between wars for the most part, for which I am not ashamed to say I am grateful. I was lucky, for me the time I spent in the military passed without much in the way of incident. We fought some forest fires, filled sand bags for flood control every now and then, and generally spent a lot of time sucking up dust in central California. The most dangerous things I endured were brawls in the barracks or dust-ups in the NCO clubs and bars.
The people I know who stayed in the unit after I got out were called upon to perform a much greater service. A lot of those guys have completed 2 long, terrifying, dangerous tours in Iraq now. In truth, if my cancer had not hindered my ability to gain promotions I likely would have stayed in, and would have had a similar experience.
Nationally, we tend to look at the reserve components of the military as a sort of joke.
Unlike the full-time soldier, a reservist is a regular citizen most of the time, school teachers, cab drivers, electricians, students, etc. Reservists train one weekend a month more or less and spend some time in 'summer camp' every year. From the outside, it's easy to imagine that they don't take their service seriously.
Odds are, someone you know is in the the Reserves. If the call for them has not come down yet, there is always the chance that it will. And when it comes, they will put aside their entire life and go to war. Their average age is over 30.
Weekend warriors from my old unit (1-149) earned three Presidential Unit Citations. The famed 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne is also entitled three.
I was honored while in the Guard to meet and speak with members of my unit who earned one of them during World War II. They survived the Bataan death march, and carried the experience with them always.
Weekend warriors have fought and died in every war we've ever had. The National Guard is older than the nation itself, tracing it's lineage to the colonial militia.
When we stop to remember all of the fallen today, please take a moment to think about them, and if you know anyone currently serving in the military, thank them.
Even if they are 'just' weekend warriors.