ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine visited with and thanked Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group during a ceremony celebrating the unit’s recent successes April 10, 2021, in Rocky Mount, Virginia.
The ceremony was part of a day of celebration after a busy year for the 229th, which included support to Virginia’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as support to law enforcement in Washington, D.C., before, during and after the Presidential Inauguration in January 2021. During the event, Kaine thanked the Soldiers and highlighted why their support and service meant a great deal to him personally.
“To be a senator from Virginia is a tremendous honor, but to be a senator from Virginia and serve on the Armed Services Committee is a particular reason for me to come today and to say thank you for the incredible variety of missions, some planned, but many unplanned and sprung on you with very little notice,” Kaine said. “I want to thank you on behalf of my committee for the long list of achievements and accomplishments of the past year.
“I also want to thank you, maybe more importantly, as a person, as a Virginian. Your service this year has had a personal impact on my life. I’ve seen you all over the Commonwealth this year doing things that have a personal impact on my life.”
In the first half of 2020, more than 50 Soldiers assigned to the 229th helped bolster Virginia’s COVID-19 testing capability, supporting missions that resulted in the collection of more than 101,000 test samples. The increased testing capability the Guard helped make possible directly impacted the senator’s family.
“When the COVID missions started, my in-laws live in a nursing home,” explained Kaine. “They’re 97 and 95 years old. At the beginning of COVID, we didn’t have enough testing capacity. So, our Guard men and women sprang into action to do testing all over the commonwealth, and it was the Guard’s men and women who did testing at the senior center where my in-laws live.”
Kaine also mentioned how VNG Soldiers and Airmen have helped ramp up vaccinations across the state, another mission the 229th is helping make successful, with 10 Soldiers assigned to the task force which is providing logistics and administrative support to clinics run by local health districts across the commonwealth.
However, the senator’s most heartfelt thanks was a result of the support the 229th and other VNG units provided in the nation’s capital as a result of events on Jan. 6, 2021, on extremely short notice.
“I also want to thank you for providing protection to those of us in the Senate, in the House, and our staffers during the attack on our capitol on January 6. You didn’t have much notice. It was a day I never would have imagined and a day I never will forget,” said Kaine, who described his experience that day, which resulted in VNG Soldiers answering the call to respond just hours later. “We were in contact with the Governor of Virginia, and knew he had said we want the Virginia National Guard to come help, and that made us feel good, made us feel safer.”
Kaine went on to individually recognize 63 Soldiers who represented the 229th in D.C. from Jan. 7 - Feb. 15, 2021, speaking their names and asking for them to stand and be recognized.
“You kept us safe. You kept me safe personally. So that’s why, when I was asked whether I would come today, I said yeah, I’m going to come, and I’m going to give the official thank you as an Armed Services Committee member, but I’m going to come because you, Virginia Guard, tested my 97 and 95-year-old in-laws, you handed out food to your Virginia neighbors who needed it and you’re vaccinating people all over the commonwealth so they can stay safer,” Kaine added. “And, you stood up for the nation against an insurrection and protected staffers and members of Congress, and more importantly, protected the Constitution of our democracy. I have gratitude to you, personal gratitude to you, for the amazing response you have shown again and again and again this year.”
Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, also spoke during the ceremony and thanked the unit for their hard work over the last 12 months, and mentioned how their successes are being noticed at the highest levels.
“It’s hard not to reflect on conversations occurring as recent as last Tuesday when I had the opportunity to spend time with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville and the commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, Gen. Michael Garrett. To the person, those two gentlemen and their sergeants major, the only thing they could do is talk about the great things the National Guard has done across the country. You are a reflection of that,” said Williams. “You live up to what the chief of the National Guard Bureau says and reflects in our motion, ‘Always Ready, Always There.’”
Williams also recognized families and the Soldiers’ employers for their sacrifices.
“This past year has tested your patience and your mettle, the patience of your employers, of your families. They’re just as strong and as key of members in that fight as you are. It took all of that to come together,” said Williams. “So, when you see Army leadership talking about the great things the National Guard is doing, I can tell you they mean it. You are absolutely amazing troops. What you did is amazing, what you continue to do is amazing, and we have a long road ahead of us yet.”
After the conclusion of the ceremony, Kaine was given tour of the readiness center and the 229th’s capabilities, including vehicles and equipment.