Sometimes we refer to them respectfully as "weekend warriors." They are the men and women of National Guard units throughout West Virginia.
Too often during the past decade, those weekends have been spent far from the Guard members' homes among the hills, sometimes in harm's way in war zones.
An idea of what the more than 6,500 West Virginia National Guard members have sacrificed in service to our country was provided by a news report this week. For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, all the Mountain State's Guard members will be at home soon. Two units that had been in Afghanistan and Africa are about to be demobilized.
That does not mean the end of service for our men and women, however. In March, members of the Charleston-based 130th Airlift Wing will be deployed to Afghanistan for four months.
During the war against terrorists, thousands of West Virginians have served in the Guard and the ready Reserve. In addition to the demands and danger of doing their military jobs overseas, they have been away from families and friends, often from careers, for months on end.
The armed forces - and thus, all Americans - have come to rely on them. With active-duty forces too small to handle the worldwide demands of safeguarding our nation and its vital interests, Guard and Reserve members have stepped up to handle critical missions.
Their willingness and readiness to do that has placed their fellow West Virginians and other Americans in their debt.