Military families in Limestone County and across the nation have been grappling with the sudden deployment of U.S. soldiers to the Middle East, and many are asking for the nation's support.
Over the past several days, thousands of soldiers have been deployed to the region amid rising tensions with Iran, which followed the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general.
When news started pouring in Tuesday of Iranian missiles striking two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq, many back home were sitting on the edges of their seats awaiting word of any casualties and damage. Military families across the county took to social media to ask for prayers and support.
President Donald Trump addressed the nation Wednesday concerning the retaliatory attacks, which included no American or Iraqi casualties and minor damage. Concern for the nation's troops was still fresh on the minds of Americans.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Sandra Thompson, who is also the director of the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives in Athens, said times like these are stressful on troops and their families.
She's aware, however, the military has been trained for these incidents. She knows the region and served in the Gulf War.
“This is the military's purpose,” she said Wednesday morning. “Nobody wants to go to war, but sometimes that's what it comes down to. It is their mission to defend our country.”
The nation's military comes from all walks of life — young, old, male, female, married or single. The troops also hold different beliefs, religious and political.
Thompson believes right now we should pray for our troops and let them know we support their efforts.
“Don't talk bad about our troops,” she said. “Even if you don't agree with the conflict, support the troops.”
Public Information Specialist Belinda Bazinet with the Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs said there are more than 8,700 active-duty soldiers in the state and more than 18,800 reserves.
The state had 365,895 veterans in 2018, Bazinet said, and of those veterans, 7,252 reside in Limestone County.
Bazinet, who retired from the Air Force after 34 years of service, said Americans don't have to agree with everything going on, but should support the troops.
“The troops are trained and ready,” Bazinet said. They volunteered to join of their own free will and went through training to defend interests here and abroad.”
She believes the troops should know Americans appreciate what they are doing.
“They should know we are praying for them and thinking of them,” Bazinet said. “We should let them know we support them.”
Soldiers train to be ready to respond quickly to crises abroad, but sometimes they have to be ready to deploy at a moment's notice. When they deploy, military families don't want them to worry about things back home, they want them to focus on the mission.
Another issue circulating during recent tensions centers on the draft. The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College issued the following statement Wednesday on Twitter: “Fact check: The U.S. Army is NOT contacting anyone regarding the draft. If you are receiving texts, phone calls or direct messages about a military draft, they are not official communications from the U.S. Army.”
Through Twitter, the Selective Service System said the organization is “conducting business as usual. In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”