Where in the world is the Guard and Reserve? Perhaps the better question is, “Where are they not?” From exercises and training to national disaster assistance, combat roles, and humanitarian work, their vital presence extends around the globe—and very possibly in your backyard too.

The month of May affords us a special opportunity to recognize such vigilance—and the courage and sacrifice that accompanies it.

In 1999, Senator John McCain introduced a bill establishing May as National Military Appreciation Month under the premise that

the freedom and security that citizens of the United States enjoy today are direct results of the vigilance of the United States Armed Forces.

A quick look at some recent events illuminates how crucial the role of the Guard and Reserve is in safeguarding our republic and our lives.

Responding to natural disasters

The recent devastating floods in Missouri and Arkansas prompted hundreds of Guardsmen to come to the aide of their fellow citizens. In some cases, Guardsmen were working right in their own towns and neighborhoods to stem the floods.

Humanitarian outreach

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U.S. Army National Guard photos by Spc. Victoria Eckert

This series of images shows members of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas Army National Guard impacting the lives of refugee children in Djibouti, Africa. Humanitarian efforts like these are often overlooked but are a crucial way for the armed forces to establish positive relationships with nations and individuals around the world.

Community demonstrations / education

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U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd

This incredible image from South Carolina National Guard Air and Ground Expo at McEntire Joint National Guard Base shows an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter flying in front of a wall of flames. This was just one of more than 100 ground and air demonstrations conducted by the SC Air National Guard and the SC Army National Guard during the two-day event.

The expo, held annually, is a way to demonstrate the SC Guard’s “unique capabilities” and “to say ‘thank you’ to the community for their ongoing support.”

Protecting our nation’s cybersecurity

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U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Giles

What is Red Cell? It’s a group of Guard “hackers” who attempt to infiltrate Blue Cell systems, as part of cybersecurity exercises. One recent exercise, Cyber Shield 17, took place at Camp Williams, Utah, April 24 to May 5, 2017. National Guardsmen and Army Reservists began with a week of training and preparation, culminating in a scenario-based cyber role-play.

According to some assessments, the Guard and Reserve is uniquely positioned to play a crucial role in defending U.S. cybersecurity, since many of its members have day jobs in the cybersecurity sector or other information technology sectors.

Heading overseas

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U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar

This image shows U.S. Army Reserve Private 1st Class Torrence Saunders comforting his mother and aunt during his deployment ceremony in the 335th Signal Command (Theater) headquarters in East Point, Ga., March 7. The detachment was embarking on a nine-month deployment to the Middle East to support Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the international coalition composed of U.S. military and forces from over 30 countries established to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

Pfc. Saunders’ deployment stands in for the numerous recent deployments across the Guard and Reserve, whether to the Middle East, Southwest Asia, or many other undisclosed locations around the world.

Coming home

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U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch

Just as the Guard and Reserve’s deployments are numerous, so are their returns. Nearly 30 Soldiers with 1st Airfield Operations Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment, 90th Troop Command, Oklahoma Army National Guard, returned home Saturday, April 29, 2017, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Norman, Oklahoma after being deployed to the Middle East for nearly a year. While deployed, the AOB provided air traffic control and airfield operations in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

This is merely a glimpse of the Guard and Reserve in action. Units and individual augmentees are deployed to the most volatile regions in the world. From the civil war in Syria to the Ukraine to the escalating tensions with North Korea, our Guardsmen and Reservists are there.

Please join us in thanking Guard and Reserve members in your community and worldwide during Military Appreciation Month—and help us to extend that gratitude year-round.