Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oregon National Guard Adjutant General responds to negative editorial

On Oct. 17, the Mail Tribune published an editorial entitled, "Guard Policy Bewildering: How can a food bank to benefit soldiers' families be inappropriate for an armory?"

The editorial begins, "It's a decision so bewildering it almost takes your breath away: The Oregon National Guard has ordered local residents to close a food bank at the Merlin National Guard Armory."

To read the rest of the editorial, please visit the Mail Tribune website, here.

The following letter to the editor, written in response to the above editorial, by Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, has been sent to Mr. Dennis Roler of the Grants Pass Daily Courier.

Dear Dennis Roler,

On Oct. 17, 2009, the Grants Pass Courier published an editorial titled, "Guard Policy Bewildering: How can a food bank to benefit soldiers' families be inappropriate for an armory?"

As leaders of the Oregon National Guard, we can tell you that as an organization, we are extremely grateful for any effort supporting our soldiers, airmen and their families. Anytime our communities are willing to "step up" for Guard members, we are always filled with pride and appreciation.

The National Guard/Militia is rooted in our state and national constitutions. At our foundation the Guard is comprised of citizen-soldiers. We are intertwined with our communities--we are your friends as well as your neighbors. We live, work, play and pray in our towns and cities in this great state we call home. We are not separate and distinct from these communities, but a part thereof.

We have spoken with leaders at the Josephine County Food Bank and they have assured us they have an effective and robust system in place to assist those in need.

The issue of the Food Bank at the Grants Pass Armory is disturbing on several levels. First, it is regrettable that the difficult economic times we live in are forcing proud, hardworking members of our communities to seek additional food assistance, but as stated earlier, we are a cross section of our communities, so no doubt we have Guard families in need.

Second, we have been made aware of the Josephine County Food Bank, which is willing to assist all the community when needed and is noted as one of the best food bank systems in Oregon. Why would it be necessary to set up a parallel system when less than a mile away from our Armory there is a food pantry?

We are not against the support being generated through the food bank at the local National Guard Armory. We believe these resources would be better utilized assisting the effective system already set in placed by Josephine County.

As our deployments have increased over the last five or six years, we have seen the creation of food donation drives through many well-meaning citizens and organizations.

Unfortunately, it has often created confusion among unit members as well as their families. We have concluded it is better for those needy families to use existing support networks throughout Oregon. Further, this is in line with National Guard Bureau Policy.

The Oregon National Guard has an extensive support network. Our Family Program has full-time staff and volunteers across the state to connect those in need to a wide variety of services.

In addition, the Oregon National Guard Emergency Relief Fund is easily accessible and generously supported through donations and state appropriations. National Guard families in need may contact: Barbara McClenathan, Battalion Family Programs Coordinator, (541) 892-4146; Staff Sgt. Richard Wirfs, Emergency Relief Fund, (503) 584-3989; or Maj. Darren Hoschouer, Senior Full-Time Officer in Southern Oregon, (541) 482-4414.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of our fellow friends and neighbors who support the Oregon National Guard. We encourage local organizations to redirect their efforts in assisting the Josephine County Food Bank.

When we are needed, we are there. Thank you to the community of Josephine County for doing the same for our citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen.


Major General
The Adjutant General

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