While it’s a holiday for most of us — this Thanksgiving weekend is a time of duty for many soldiers in the Iowa National Guard. Iowa has 3,000 men and women on active duty — with 18-hundred of them overseas. Iowa Guard Deputy Adjutant General Mark Zirkelbach says unfortunately most of the troops will still be serving at Christmas time, too. Zirkelbach says some of the soldiers are able to get home for the holidays. He says the soldiers in Iraq have a chance to get a 15-day leave, depending on the mission requirements of their unit. For those who can’t make it home, the Guard has established toll-free phone service and full motion video teleconferences so the soldiers can communicate with loved ones. General Zirkelbach says the Guard provides a statewide support network for the families of the troops. Volunteers provide crisis counseling to the families to help them through. Zirkelbach says Iowa schoolchildren have provided some much needed support for the troops. He says nearly every school has done something from letter writing to sending care packages. He says the e-mail that comes from the soldiers expresses appreciation of that support. He says the entire state has supported the effort of the soldiers. He says it’s surprising that nearly every Iowan either has a family member deployed, or knows of someone who is deployed. He says Iowans have been helpful in offering their support to guardmembers and their families.
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