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NEWS | Jan. 3, 2022

Governor, First Lady host families of deployed VNG Soldiers, Airmen

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the First Lady of Virginia Pam Northam hosted a reception for Virginia National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and their families Dec. 11, 2021, at Virginia’s Executive Mansion in Richmond, Virginia. The reception recognized families of those personnel who are currently mobilized, as well as the Soldiers and Airmen who returned from federal active duty deployments this year.

Acting Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Brig. Gen. James Ring, the Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff also visited with Soldiers, Airmen and their families during the event.

“We look forward to this every year. It’s great to have everyone together,” said Gov. Northam. “But, there’s one thing missing, and that’s your loved ones, that’s your family members that are deployed and off doing what’s in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia and off protecting the United States of America. For that, for all of you, we say thank you.”

“This is one of our favorite parties of the whole year. Every chance we get, we like to say how much we appreciate you,” said First Lady Northam. “Our family has been on deployment, so we can relate to the many challenges that we know you all face. But, we also know you face them with resilience, and you don’t face them alone.”

During the festivities, family members met with the governor and his wife and helped themselves to a festive spread of heavy hors d'oeuvres. Many families took the opportunity to have their photos taken with the governor, while others created their own desserts at the cookie-decorating station.

“Thank you to all the family members and especially all the little children for traveling up today,” said Jabs, addressing the family members gathered at the mansion. “I remember when I had the same experience as a Navy spouse. The Northams know what it’s like to be deployed too. We’re all here and rooting for you.” In addition to being a Navy spouse, Jabs is also a retired Navy captain.

“It’s wonderful you can come here and be a part of this recognition and to start the holidays off,” said Williams.

While the holiday reception is generally an annual event, the 2021 version held even more significance as so many VNG Soldiers are currently mobilized for federal active duty. In November 2021, approximately 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers deployed as Task Force Red Dragon to provide a security force in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the largest VNG single-unit deployment since World War II. They joined Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division and the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group already serving on federal active duty in the Middle East.

Most recently, on Dec. 13, 2021, a ceremony was held for approximately 300 VNG Soldiers assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment as they mobilized for federal active duty to the Middle East.

Additional units will mobilize in the coming months. When National Guard Soldiers from Kentucky and Maryland serving in the 29th Infantry Division are added in, it is the most Soldiers the division has mobilized since 1942.

“When you start to look at the global map, you realize we’re pretty much everywhere,” said Williams. “That’s a testament to the great Soldiers and Airmen, our formation and the work that they do.”

Governor Northam took the opportunity to impart his gratefulness to the family members of those thousands who are deployed.

“They’re so important - the spouses the partners, the friends and the family that take care of the children, that help pay the bills to keep things going while these men and women are off serving the country,” he said. “So to all of you that are here in support of someone who is serving, on behalf of a grateful Virginia, I say thank you.”

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