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Sgt. Raymond Priem letter: Nobody forced National Guard troops to sign up

I've been kept informed of the local newspaper articles while presently activated and feel I have to respond to Kohl Skalin's letter.

("Minnesotans will have served the longest," Jan. 24 Becker County Record)

Where did the letter-writer get his "barebone facts" from? Who was the person holding his right arm up when he enlisted? Kohl, when you sat down with the recruiter, it was a job interview; he asked questions, you answered; he told you you could have the job and you said yes -- when you still had the opportunity to say no. Nobody made you join and you can't say you didn't know you might have to go in harms' way.

Our country is free because of war; it's all about sacrifice. Soldiers fight in wars. As a soldier, you knew what you were signing up for when you joined; the incentives might have been attractive, but you signed on to defend our country at the drop of a hat when needed; you enlisted to defend against all enemies of the USA. The Army used to train for active duty, but those times have changed -- the Army trains for war.

Being a service member is a 24/7 commitment; it's not turned off because you're a Reservist or in the National Guard. Don't complain about an extension of your tour -- everyone activated knows it's a possibility -- just do your job and come home. Don't be a negative attitude feeding into the anti-war crowd trying to control our media.

The war is not about who served the longest hitch in Iraq, who did or did not get a 125-day extension, or whether an Active Duty, Reservist, or National Guard soldier does more or less. No one compares if one unit takes three weeks before they are off to the sand, or three months to train up, or possibly as in this unit's case, over six months before they are actually on Iraq turf.

I don't think anyone sees the National Guard as a "crutch to help the Army" -- get it through your head -- we are in a war. Every single branch of the military is depending on every single soldier to lead the way forward -- we are all soldiers.

And that last statement "when do we expect more out of our citizen soldiers..." -- the expectation is that each soldier do the job and come home safe and alive -- it's not about expecting more out of one soldier than another. As for me, I was sent to Afghanistan in 2001-2002; came home for three months and was called up again from 2003 to 2004. I was activated for a year training troops to go Iraq and Afghan, knowing at any moment I could be going over myself; I came home for less than a year, was called up again and was sent to Iraq November 2004 to November 2005.

I was convoy commander with missions all over Iraq. I did my job and came home. I did not complain about how long I had to stay, how much time the guy next to me got at home, or whether the guy next to me was National Guard, Active Duty, or Reserve -- just so he was there doing his job.

I'm now recently activated to another 12-month tour, which started in June 2006, after again being home for less than a year. I've been away from my home in Detroit Lakes for over five years, and not one single moment in the day goes by that I'm not missing my 9-year-old son, who's always on my mind.

And my friends, simply put, we said yes when we didn't have to. There is always a choice, and you made one. -- Staff Sgt. Raymond Priem, Detroit Lakes