HONOLULU – More than 3,000 National Guard officers and their families from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia met Sept. 20-23 in the Hawaii Convention Center to discuss the common challenges that confront the Army and Air National Guards nationwide. <br /> <br /> The 135th Annual National Guard Association of the United States Conference began with welcoming remarks from Hawaii’s state adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, and Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. <br /> <br /> Abercrombie stressed the importance of the National Guard and the need for Congress to provide the funds needed to support National Guard programs. <br /> <br /> “Our diversity defines us, it does not divide us,” Abercrombie said. “As long as there is a strong National Guard, as long as there is a strong national unity, then the United States can do nothing less than prosper and succeed.” <br /> <br /> After the governor expressed concerns about funding the National Guard, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki strongly emphasized the need to address a problem we have internally: providing eligible veterans the proper medical attention.<br /> <br /> “Today, we have another no-fail mission,” Shinseki said. “We must take care of every soldier and airman who answered those calls, who volunteered in our time of need, and I cannot do this without your help. We must find the members of your units who need treatment and assistance. Every National Guard veteran that you have contact with, or have served in your formations, I invite you to put them in contact with us. We must prevent any of them from slipping through the cracks.”<br /> <br /> Other keynote speakers at this years NGAUS conference were: Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Howard P. McKeon, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, U.S. Army Pacific commander, Chief of National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank J. Grass and other senior military leaders.<br /> <br /> Some of the topics discussed include: enhancing domestic operations, expanding cyber security, increasing and/or maintaining the operational force, personnel, benefits and representation in defense policy, and planning and budgets.<br /> <br /> The economic impact of hosting this conference, which included more than 3,000 attendees, their family members and industry vendors here in Hawaii is estimated at $25 million, according to event organizers<br /> <br /> Aside from the business sessions, hundreds of companies in the defense industry attended the conference.