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    Serving in the National Guard connects me to history

    Serving in the National Guard connects me to history

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Andrew Enriquez | U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Enriquez, public affairs specialist with the 715th Public...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Andrew Enriquez 

    715th Public Affairs Detachment

    As a child, I loved vintage war films. The Gary Cooper “Sergeant York” biopic was a favorite, along with “The Canterville Ghost,” a 1944 update of Oscar Wilde’s story with its protagonist a U.S. Army Ranger awaiting his destiny in the invasion of Fortress Europe. I eagerly watched our cheap VHS copy of “This is the Army,” the musical variety show starring future president Ronald Reagan that told the story of Irving Berlin’s all-soldier troupe that made entertainment “For the Soldier, By the Soldier.” Later on, my brother initiated me into a more grown-up version of military history with “Full Metal Jacket," the film that spurred him to join the Marine Corps. Absorbing films set in past American military campaigns piqued my interest in our real military history and culture, which has only grown keener in adulthood.

    I hadn’t initially planned on a military career. In my late teens, I was an apprentice ballet dancer. When that didn’t work out for me, I decided to join the Idaho Army National Guard as a Cryptologic Linguist. While I was attending the Defense Language Institute, I was recruited to audition for the U.S. Army Soldier Show, the direct descendant of Irving Berlin’s original 1917 troop show, for which he had written “God Bless America.”

    I had never been to the Washington, D.C. area before I auditioned for the 2010 U.S. Army Soldier Show, then based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia’s Wallace Theater. The kindly face of Irving Berlin, topped by a WWI campaign hat, welcomed visitors and entertainers to the theater from a brass plaque on the wall. Fresh from Advanced Individual Training, it was a wild experience to be a 22-year-old private first class running around the Fort Belvoir track singing Berlin’s 1935 song “Cheek to Cheek” as a breathing exercise for our rehearsal, while other units conducted their physical fitness tests on the same track, shooting us annoyed or confused looks as we ran past.

    During tours to Army bases in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Korea, I visited the many small on-base museums whenever I had the opportunity. This has always been a passion of mine. Throughout the course of my National Guard career, I’ve been able to visit museums like the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri and base museums at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Irwin, California.

    In 2015, I made a short film set in WWII, that featured a military subplot. The film screened at the G.I. Film Festival, where I stood on the red carpet with R. Lee Ermey, the actor who played the iconic drill instructor from “Full Metal Jacket.” Life had come full circle as I met the actor who played an iconic role that shaped my ideas of military service as a young adult. In many ways, I felt that I was witnessing a veteran who personally embodied many of the cultural ideas that still define how we perceive military service.

    Near the conclusion of a different active duty tour in 2019, I saw an announcement calling for volunteers at the National Museum of the United States Army, which was set to open in 2020. I knew I had to apply. I was selected and started training sessions at the museum, where I viewed artifacts from the first colonial militia in 1636, from which the National Guard traces its lineage. The heritage of the U.S. Army, from Valley Forge to the Global War on Terror, is preserved and illustrated at the museum, with the National Guard playing prominent roles at every step. Here was Sgt. Alvin C. York’s helmet. There was Humvee serial number 000001. Having been immersed in military history throughout my life, I was excited to participate in opening day for the museum—planned as part of the Army Birthday celebrations on June 14, 2020. Because of the pandemic, the opening had a more limited in-person presence than initially planned, but Army dignitaries were able to deliver their speeches via livestream, and a small number of patrons were admitted to the galleries.

    I decided to stay in the area and transferred to the District of Columbia Army National Guard. Established by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, the DCNG has a unique history and mission. I was especially excited to serve during the 59th Presidential Inauguration this year and be part of the making of history.

    2020 was a historic year. Within months of my transfer, DCNG Soldiers and Airmen were activated during a global pandemic to assist the community with COVID-19 testing. In the summer of 2020, DCNG was called upon to protect life and property and ensure the people’s right to peacefully protest. I witnessed great displays of professionalism and personal courage from members of the Guard. On this mission, I ran into a close friend from the 2015 Army Soldier Show, a member of the DCNG’s 257th Army Band. She took up riot gear, got on the line and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other Soldiers and Airmen to secure historical U.S. landmarks. I photographed some of the face-to-face interactions between Guard members, protesters and counter-protesters.

    Then came 2021. On Jan. 6, I helped lead a platoon-sized element of National Guard Soldiers past the U.S. Capitol and onto its grounds as part of the relief force securing the Capitol. It was a tense moment, moving wordlessly in two columns, our riot gear clattering as we walked past the damage and debris. Within a few days, I was able to return to my work behind a camera rather than a shield. Guard personnel from all 50 states and three territories joined with the DCNG to help ensure a peaceful transition of power on Jan. 20. In the early morning hours that day, I witnessed the sunrise on the dome of the Capitol and felt reassured that the Guard had helped support the democratic process. Later, I witnessed the swearing-in of President Biden and Vice President Harris, who represents the first woman and African- and Asian-American to hold the second-highest office in the United States.

    History is what results after people have experienced something significant and preserve their observations. I believe my service in the National Guard offers a unique perspective on what it is to witness and be a part of American history. The Guard is the go-to force to support the well-being of our communities, whether it be in the role of overseas deployments, national defense, disaster response, COVID-19 mitigation, protection of first amendment rights or securing our nation’s capital. We are the defenders of freedom and the American way of life. And, in the D.C. National Guard, we are Capital Guardians.



    Date Taken: 02.12.2021
    Date Posted: 02.12.2021 17:23
    Story ID: 389015
    Location: FORT BELVOIR, VA, US 
    Hometown: COEUR D'ALENE, ID, US

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