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The Changing Role of the Citizen-Soldier

Between Sept. 11, 2001 and June 30, 2007, more than 240,000 members of the U.S. National Guard served in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. The lives of these citizen-soldiers are an exercise in duality: as part-time military personnel, they train regularly but maintain full-time professions and occupations in their own communities. While they may be called up for domestic or international duties, the commitments they make are fundamentally different from those of their counterparts in the active-duty military forces. The Global War on Terror is not the first time that National Guard personnel have been deployed abroad. However, it has meant their deployment in unprecedented numbers for uncharacteristically lengthy periods of time.

“Taliban, do you think that you are safe...” 2001 or 2002. Capt. Michael Brian Daake and two members of his battalion, standing in front of 'Wanted' posters for Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi

In 2007, researcher Larry Minear published, through Tufts University's Feinstein International Center, a study of the National Guard’s role in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Minear found abundant source material for his study in the collections of the Veterans History Project (VHP), drawing on dozens of interviews with Guard personnel and active duty soldiers and on their photographs. As part of its “Experiencing War” series, VHP highlights some of the collections he employed in a web presentation on the Global War on Terror.

“The Global War on Terror has demanded much of the men and women serving in the National Guard—like no other conflict in American history,” said Minear.

The presentation covers four aspects of the citizen-soldier experience: attitudes toward service and the war; dangers and dilemmas of combat; re-entry to civilian life; and impacts of the experience. It captures the split in guardsmen’s lives between their civilian careers and their part-time Guard commitment, which, for their deployment overseas, became their full-time jobs.

Experiencing War,” a regular feature on the VHP Web site, highlights collections with similar themes. Features have included “Women at War,” “African Americans at War,” and “Military Intel.”

Commissioned by Congress to collect and preserve the recollections of Americans who served during wartime, the Veterans History Project relies on volunteers to interview veterans and submit their recollections, along with letters, photographs, memoirs and other documents, to the Library of Congress to be archived and shared with future generations.

A. “Taliban, do you think that you are safe...” 2001 or 2002. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: A pictorial story leaflet produced by the U.S. Department of Defense for air drops over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, a response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. One picture is printed on each side. The recto shows armed men standing in a cave while a fifth man sits on a rug eating. The men at the cave entrance notice a missile in the distance. On the verso, boulders block the entrance, two men are buried under rubble and the other men gesture with alarm. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-02031 (digital file from original, recto) LC-DIG-ppmsca-02032 (digital file from original, verso); Call No.: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 2002:104 [item] [P&P]

B. Capt. Michael Brian Daake and two members of his battalion, standing in front of "Wanted" posters for Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. Michael Brian Daake Collection, Veterans History Project. American Folklife Center. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.