America truly is “Home of the Free,” thanks to the brave. And, on this Veterans Day, I speak for all here at Abila when I say, thank you, military veterans, for your service to our country!

As we honor those who’ve served in the U.S. Armed Forces today, we thought it would be meaningful to shine a spotlight on one of our clients whose mission it is to serve the military and their families. We spent some time with John Goheen, Director of Communications for the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), who spoke with us about NGAUS, its history, mission, and membership.

Q. What is the history of NGAUS?

A. We’ve been around for a while. That’s probably one of the most important things to note about us. Back in 1878 during Reconstruction following the American Civil War, many militia officers were frustrated at the lack of training and equipment available to the militia (now the National Guard). So, soldiers from the North and South – many of whom were former Civil Way officers – came together to speak with one voice and petition Congress to obtain equipment and training.

Q. What is your association’s mission?

A. It’s been nearly 140 years since inception, and our mission remains virtually unchanged. Our focus is still on helping to maintain the highest state of readiness of the Armed Forces and preserve the unique institution that is the National Guard.

To accomplish this, the National Guard needs a strong voice in Washington, D.C. to ensure the Guard has sufficient resources and budget to carry out its mission. NGAUS is that voice, seeking modern equipment, training, missions, and personnel benefits to support the more than 470,000 men and women currently serving in the Army and Air National Guard, as well as their families, employers, and Guard retirees.

Q. Who makes up your membership ranks?

A. We have between 40,000 and 45,000 members who are mostly current and former officers of the National Guard. They hail from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. It’s quite a diverse group.

Q. What would you like our readers to know about the people you serve?

A. We believe the National Guard really connects the nation to our military. There are many, many communities across the country that don’t have active military components, sprawling posts, or big air bases. So, the military personnel you come in contact with are most likely Guardsmen and women. We’re very proud of that fact.

I’d also like to acknowledge the employers who allow our soldiers to deploy and then return to their jobs. This is vital to the Guard’s mission. I can site two examples just in the past several months during which the National Guard was called up to help. One here at home in South Carolina, following that state’s historic flooding, and one overseas when 10 Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and hundreds of airmen supporting them were sent on a six-month deployment flying missions against Islamic State groups in Iraq and Syria. These jobs were both largely undertaken by part-time soldiers.

Q. What Does Veterans Day mean to those of you at NGAUS?

A. We at NGAUS care deeply about our soldiers and airmen, as well as their families. Our hope on this Veterans Day and every day is for our soldiers and airmen to come home safe and sound, and have long, healthy, productive lives. It’s heartwarming to us that Veterans Day is popular once again.