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Being a first responder is not just a job; it's a calling that requires a unique set of skills and attributes that can mean the difference between life and death. These heroes are the first on the scene of accidents, natural disasters or any other critical incidents where life and safety are at risk. These emergency situations often demand high levels of physical exertion, sometimes over extended periods.

First responders must be able to carry heavy equipment, move debris or even carry individuals to safety. In addition, they must also maintain mental alertness and resiliency while being able to recover quickly. The ability to work long shifts under these conditions is a testament to their dedication and the rigorous training they undergo to serve their communities effectively.

In the blog, we'll be exploring some of the often-overlooked physical demands of the job, from training to the hidden health toll many first responders face.

Preparing To Be a First Responder

Preparation is key in the unpredictable world of first responders. Their training programs are a comprehensive regimen encompassing everything from strength training and cardiovascular conditioning to agility drills — all designed to keep them fit for the rigors of their work.

Simulated emergency scenarios play a crucial role at this stage, offering a realistic yet safe platform to hone their skills, build muscle memory and confidence and foster team coordination. These exercises ensure they're not just physically ready, but mentally prepared to make critical decisions in the heat of the moment.

The Long-Term Health Implications

The physical exertions and emotional strains of first responders are not without consequences. Repetitive motions, exposure to adverse conditions and the sheer physicality of their tasks often lead to musculoskeletal disorders. Meanwhile, exposure to hazardous materials can escalate their risk of chronic diseases.

Beyond the physical labor of their daily responsibilities, first responders often wage a silent battle against the stress and adrenaline that come with their line of work. The fight or flight response, which they may face on a daily basis, can have long-term health impacts, not only leading to physical issues, like hypertension, heart attacks and strokes but also mental health problems.

Not only are first responder jobs high-stress environments with irregular work hours, they also expose workers to potentially traumatic scenes. This can lead to issues like anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, PTSD and other mental health issues. Addressing these needs is essential, not only to help our heroes in return but also to reduce the stigma around seeking help in the first place.

Supporting Our Heroes

Whether they're maintaining resilience on the job or joining the road to recovery, first responders deserve a helping hand. Access to quality healthcare, specialized rehabilitation centers and mental health services is fundamental, ensuring they can recover from injuries and cope with the mental toll of their duties.

Peer support and counseling offer additional layers of support, providing a space to share experiences and coping strategies. Many first responder organizations offer professional counseling services designed to address the specific needs of those in the profession. Similarly, departments and agencies will often provide employee assistance programs (EAPs), which offer confidential assessments, counseling and referrals for a range of issues, including stress, mental health, substance abuse and family problems.

There is also a wide range of first-responder charities and foundations providing essential support to our heroes on the frontlines. Whether you need assistance or you're looking for ways to help, consider checking out these organizations:

As first responders continue to bravely answer their call of duty, it's our collective responsibility to protect and serve those who do the same for us.

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Tracing its roots to the early colonial militias of the 1600s, the National Guard has evolved significantly over the centuries. It has played a pivotal role in every major American conflict, from the Revolutionary War to the recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, its core capacity to serve local communities has never changed.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at three crucial roles the National Guard plays in our communities.

1. Disaster Response and Relief

When natural disasters strike, the National Guard is often among the first to respond, saving countless civilian lives. Their rapid mobilization capabilities allow them to provide immediate assistance to communities facing crises such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes.

The Guard's presence brings not only manpower and equipment but also a sense of security and hope to affected areas. Their ability to quickly deploy and operate under challenging conditions makes them an indispensable asset during these critical times, helping to stabilize situations that could otherwise spiral out of control.

The National Guard's search and rescue operations are a testament to their bravery and skill. Whether it's navigating floodwaters to rescue stranded families, digging through the rubble of a collapsed building, or airlifting individuals from remote locations, the Guard's personnel are trained to handle a variety of rescue scenarios.

But the job doesn't stop there. After a disaster, their role shifts from immediate response to long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation. Members work tirelessly alongside local authorities and organizations to rebuild infrastructure, restore essential services, and help communities recover from the devastation.

2. Health and Medical Support

In times of crisis, such as the pandemic, the National Guard's emergency medical services are a lifeline for communities facing dire situations. Guard units are equipped with medical personnel and resources that can be deployed to supplement overwhelmed local healthcare systems. Their swift action in setting up field hospitals, providing triage, and delivering medical care is crucial in preserving the health and well-being of affected populations, ensuring that no one is left without access to essential medical services.

Beyond emergency response, the National Guard also engages in ongoing healthcare programs and assistance. These programs aim to improve the overall health landscape of local communities, particularly in underserved areas. Initiatives may include health screenings, vaccination drives, and public health education campaigns, all of which contribute to a healthier populace. The Guard's involvement in these programs demonstrates their role not just as responders, but as proactive agents of health and wellness within the community.

3. Training and Expertise Sharing

Training local first responders is an essential service provided by the National Guard, ensuring that communities have skilled professionals ready to handle emergencies. The Guard offers specialized training programs that cover a range of skills, from emergency medical techniques to disaster response strategies. By sharing their knowledge and experience, the Guard enhances the capabilities of local emergency services, which is vital for the safety and security of the community.

The National Guard's role in sharing military expertise with community agencies extends beyond traditional emergency response. Their personnel often provide insights into logistics, communications, and coordination, which are critical in managing complex situations. This transfer of knowledge helps community agencies to operate more effectively, whether they're planning large public events or improving their readiness for potential crises.

The National Guard's presence is a cornerstone of strength for countless communities. Their unique ability to operate both as a military force and a community service provider allows them to address a wide range of needs, from disaster response to youth development and public health. As challenges evolve and new threats emerge, the Guard will no doubt continue to adapt and expand its capabilities to meet the needs of the nation.

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Dogs are more than just pets; they've been loyal companions to humans for tens of thousands of years. In ancient times they helped us hunt, but today, they serve a wide range of roles, from our best friends to vigilant protectors who keep us safe.

Each year, March 13th is dedicated to National K9 Veterans Day — a day for recognizing and honoring the service and sacrifices of military and working dogs. It marks the official birthday of the United States K9 Corps, which was established back in 1942 for the first military dogs who served during World War II.

These dogs, and those that followed, have played critical roles in patrol, detection, search and rescue, and as loyal companions. The observance of National K9 Veterans Day is a testament to the enduring partnership between dogs and humans, particularly in the realm of national defense and public service. It's a day to reflect on the heroism of these animals and give thanks for their countless contributions to our society.

The History of the K9 Unit

The K9 unit, as we know it today, has a storied history that began long before its formal establishment. Dogs have been used in warfare and security since ancient times, aiding the military forces of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. However, the official use of dogs for military purposes in the United States began during World War II with the inception of the War Dog Program, or "K9 Corps," on March 13, 1942.

This marked the beginning of systematic training and deployment of canines for combat and other military-related tasks. The K9 Corps initially recruited civilian dogs and their owners, training these teams for various duties, including sentry, scout, and messenger roles.

Over the years, the role of K9 units has evolved significantly. In the public sphere, police forces have adopted the concept of training dogs for law enforcement tasks such as drug and bomb detection, search and rescue operations, and the pursuit of suspects. Today, these K9 units are an indispensable part of both military operations and public safety efforts, showcasing the remarkable adaptability and skill of these working dogs.

The Life of a Working Dog

Working dogs play a pivotal role in contributing to public and national security. Their keen senses, particularly hearing and smell, make them invaluable in detecting explosives, narcotics, and even certain medical conditions. Our canine companions are also often the first line of defense for national security, working tirelessly at borders, airports, and high-security events to sniff out potential threats.

The life of a K9 unit begins with rigorous training, where handlers hone their natural abilities to perform specialized tasks. This training is both physically and mentally demanding, ensuring that the dogs are prepared for the challenges they will face in the field without getting distracted.

Throughout their service, K9s form an unbreakable bond with their handlers, built on trust, respect, and mutual reliance. When these dogs retire, they often do so with the same handler or another loving family, where they can enjoy a well-deserved rest and the companionship they have earned through years of loyal service. In some cases, after their tenure in active duty, K9s can often find new ways to contribute to society — especially as the roles of working dogs are continually expanding.

As therapy dogs, they provide comfort and support to veterans and civilians alike, helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. As service dogs, they assist individuals with disabilities, offering them greater independence and quality of life. Whatever they get up to, K9 units continue to serve and inspire long after their official duties have ended, proving that their heroism extends far beyond the battlefield or the line of duty.

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February is Black History Month — an important time to recognize and honor the profound contributions and sacrifices of African Americans throughout our nation's history. Despite the immeasurable hardships and discrimination they've faced in a country that had, until around 60 years ago, denied their rights as citizens, African American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have continually shown exceptional valor and resilience both on and off the battlefield.

This year, to celebrate and honor our nation's Black service members, we'd like to take a look back at their heroic journeys throughout history, shedding light on their often unsung stories.

The History of African Americans in the Military

From the very inception of the United States of America, Black service members have demonstrated an unwavering commitment, courage and determination to defend the nation. In fact, they've answered the call of duty to serve and sacrifice in every single U.S. war, from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we commemorate the enduring legacy of African Americans in the military, let's trace their remarkable history from the 1700s to the modern day.

The Revolutionary War

Beginning prior to the Revolutionary War, both free and enslaved Black people rose up against the British during the Boston Massacre. In fact, Crispus Attucks is considered to be the first casualty of the revolution, bravely leading the protest before the tragedy transpired.

Following the Boston Massacre, over 5,000 Black soldiers from all 13 colonies fought for the American cause, seeking the prospect of freedom from both the British and the colonists. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those who served were freed from their bonds.

The Civil War

While Black minutemen and soldiers served in regiments throughout the later 1700s and early 1800s, it wasn't until 1863 that the U.S. government officially allowed African Americans to enlist in the armed forces. However, the Civil War was obviously a turning point for Black military history, as by the end of it, nearly 200,000 Black soldiers had served in the Union Army. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army had recruited a small group of Black soldiers toward the end of the war, but they wouldn't see combat before its end.

The Great Wars

By the time of World War I and World War II, the horrors of chattel slavery had ended, and Black Americans were quickly becoming a much larger part of the nation's military — despite continuing discrimination and segregation. To put it into perspective, the First World War saw over 380,000 African Americans serve in the army, while over 1 million Black men and women served in the second.

Fighting fascism on one front and racism on the other, Black service members demonstrated extraordinary courage and resilience, with legendary groups like the Tuskegee Airmen leaving an indelible mark on history.

Modern Military Diversity

In today's modern military, the landscape has significantly evolved. The U.S. military is continually committed to improving racial diversity and providing equal opportunities for all service members. And with each branch making a more proactive effort to recruit and train a diverse force of soldiers, sailors and airmen, the nation can not only strengthen its capabilities but also reflect the values of equality and inclusion that are so central to America.

Honoring Black Heroes

As we continue into Black History Month, and throughout the year, it's important to take the time to reflect on and commemorate the sacrifices and contributions African Americans have made in the line of duty. Their stories of bravery and determination inspire us all and remind us of the strength found in diversity and unity.

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Behind every first responder is a family standing tall to support them. Though first responder families are often overshadowed by the flashing lights and sirens, they live lives of quiet bravery and resilience. From coping with constant worry over their loved one’s safety to managing the unpredictable nature of emergency work and its impact on the home, these families face their own set of challenges.

Today, we’d like to shine a spotlight on the experiences of first-responder families and share a few resources that can offer some much-needed support.

The Challenges of Being a First Responder Family

First, it’s important to understand the unique difficulties many family members face, including:

  1. Emotional Stress and Anxiety: Families of first responders often must grapple with ongoing worry and anxiety over their loved ones due to their occupational exposure to danger. Much like first responders have to deal with the unpredictability of emergency work, their family members are also unsure of what each day may bring.
  2. Long, Irregular Work Hours: The atypical and often extended working hours of first responders can also put a strain on first responders and their families. Long shifts that stretch into the nights can hinder family bonding time and disrupt routines and schedules. This often puts more responsibilities on spouses to manage the household alone.
  3. Limited Availability for Family: In addition to irregular and long working hours, the demanding nature of a first responder’s job means they often have to miss significant family events, such as birthdays, school functions, anniversaries and holidays. Their absence during these moments can lead to feelings of disappointment or even abandonment, especially for children.
  4. Physical Risk and Health Concerns: The inherent danger of being a first responder can bring constant worry about physical harm. Families often live with the fear of potential injury or worse, impacting their mental well-being, and exposure to hazardous and traumatic conditions can have long-term impacts on their loved ones.
  5. Financial Strain: Despite the essential nature of their work, many first responders and their families face financial stress, whether it’s from the rising cost of living or health care expenses in the case of injury or trauma. In the tragic event that a first responder passes in the line of duty, their family could be facing even greater financial distress on top of dealing with the grief. Fortunately, a wide array of support resources are available to first-responder families.

Helpful Resources for Supporting First Responders and Their Families

Here are a few resources to help first responders and their family members:

  • First Responders Support Network offers specialized retreats and mental health support for first responders and their families, focusing on recovery from traumatic stress and promoting well-being through peer support and education.
  • Hope for Emergency Responders Organization (HERO) is dedicated to providing support and resources and fostering a community of care and recognition for the mental and physical health of first responders and their families.
  • First Responders Children’s Foundation provides financial assistance and educational resources to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty and families facing hardship due to a first responder’s work-related trauma.
  • Family Survivor College Scholarship was established by AFBA to support the educational aspirations of the children of fallen first responders.
  • Financial and Legal Assistance offered by AFBA through various programs and organizations provides financial guidance and legal support to first-responder families, helping them navigate the complexities of financial planning, insurance and more.

At AFBA, we recognize the strength and courage of first responder families, and we’re here to help. Find out more about the support and resources available to our members.

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Here's a fun fact: Did you know the National Guard is older than the Army and even the country?

December 13th, 2023 marks this military force's 387th birthday — a testament to its enduring legacy of service and sacrifice. As we celebrate this milestone, it's important to commemorate not just the history of the institution, but also the brave men and women who have served and safeguarded our nation for nearly four centuries.

Join us as we take a deeper dive into the history and significance of the U.S. National Guard.

When Was the National Guard Established?
Today, the National Guard includes both the Army National Guard as well as the Air National Guard. However, long before the invention of the airplane, the organization began as a colonial militia force, tracing its roots back to Massachusetts.

On December 13th, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony organized the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Cavalry, the 101st Field Artillery and the 101st Engineer Battalion to protect itself. These four regiments still stand as the oldest units in the U.S. military.

What About the Air National Guard?
While the National Guard is older than the Army, the Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force are actually the same age. That's because, prior to 1947, the two were part of the Army Air Corps (later changed to Army Air Forces during WWII). However, the National Security Act would officially separate the two branches on September 18th of that same year, eventually transferring the Army Air Forces units to the newly established Air National Guard as an aerial reserve component.

The Role of the National Guard
As a state-based military force, the National Guard plays a pivotal role in responding to domestic emergencies and natural disasters, as well as defending our country when necessary. They operate as a dual-purpose institution for both state and federal missions across U.S. states and territories — even deploying overseas. With diverse capabilities, from combat to humanitarian work, the National Guard is dedicated to responding to critical emergencies, preserving homeland security and supporting global peace efforts.

What Does it Mean to be Part of the National Guard?
While National Guard servicemembers are sometimes lampooned as "weekend warriors," this jab couldn't be further from the truth. Being a member of the National Guard carries an immense commitment to service, readiness and community. They may be citizen-soldiers, but they maintain a delicate balance of military duty with civilian work — all while undergoing rigorous training to prepare for times of crisis. That way, they're ready to defend, protect and serve the nation on a moment's notice.

Commemorating the National Guard's Birthday
The National Guard's birthday isn't a national holiday, nor is it a free day off of work or school. However, that doesn't mean the day isn't celebrated. Many servicemembers make a point to commemorate December 13th to honor military heritage as well as the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms. One common event is the cake-cutting ceremony, in which the oldest member of a Guard unit and the youngest cut a large cake to share with everyone. Some units might also host local celebrations, gathering with other members of the Guard and the larger community.

Recognizing 387 Years of Service and Sacrifice
While there won't be any fanfare or parades this December 13th, civilians can still honor the National Guard's birthday by attending community events and expressing their gratitude toward those who have served. Taking the time to hear their stories, learn about their contributions, and actively support veterans and their families is a meaningful way to recognize their sacrifices and perhaps the best way to celebrate this observance.

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Podcast popularity has been on the rise in recent years, with millions of listeners and nearly just as many options — and military podcasts are no exception. With so much content, it can feel daunting to search for the perfect series that suits your interests. That's why we took the time to find a few of the best military podcasts across a diverse range of perspectives and topics, from historical viewpoints and foreign policy to personal stories of bravery and courage.

AFBA's Top 5 Military Podcasts
Here are our picks for the top 5 military podcasts:

1. Mentors for Military
The Mentors for Military podcast offers thought-provoking discussions with real people and their stories. Led by a diverse group of 18 veterans, each episode of Mentors offers a captivating glimpse into the experiences of a wide range of servicemembers, from elite forces to Army Rangers.

For those intrigued by military life, this show offers an enlightening view through authentic conversations with veterans. Just sit back and tune in to the engaging conversations they have as if they're sitting with you in your living room.

2. Veteran's PATH
Veteran's PATH is an excellent resource for former military personnel who may be struggling with mental health. Its goal is to help ex-servicemembers find Peace, Acceptance, Transformation and Honor by using practices such as meditation and mindfulness. Not only does Veteran's PATH serve as a vital platform advocating for mental health in the military, but it's also working toward shattering the stigma around these types of issues.

Whether you've considered meditating and you just don't know where to start, or you're curious and want to give it a shot, Veteran's PATH offers a wealth of free content to help you better manage your mental health.

3. Women of the Military
Women of the Military provides a critical platform to elevate the voices of female active-duty servicemembers and veterans. Hosted by the creator of Airman to Mom, Amanda Huffman, each episode exclusively focuses on interviews with women who have served in the military, amplifying their unique stories, experiences and perspectives.

As an Air Force Officer, military spouse and veteran herself, Huffman brings her own background experience to these interesting discussions while covering an array of perspectives. And with a new episode each week, there's plenty of ground to cover and stories to explore.

4. Veterans Chronicles
Veterans Chronicles is a compelling podcast series documenting the remarkable stories of some of America's greatest heroes. Each hour-long episode captures the historical accounts and unique personal narratives of eyewitnesses through in-depth interviews.

Covering moments in military history like D-Day, Hanoi, Baghdad and Fallujah, these stories offer profound insight into the lived experience of our servicemembers, their bravery and the profound impact of their sacrifices. Simultaneously, Veterans Chronicles acts as a living record and tribute to the dedication and valor of our nation's heroes.

5. Military Mom Talk Radio
Finally, our last podcast pick takes a unique perspective on military life. Military Mom Talk Radio offers a supportive and empowering platform for women to share their ideas and concerns around the military lifestyle.

Episodes cover a wide range of topics, such as handling grief, finding a supportive community and more. Through engaging discussions and interviews, hosts Sandra Beck and Robin Boyd help women navigate the complexities of military life, including everything from health care to childcare and eldercare.

Whether you're an active-duty servicemember, a veteran or a civilian, these podcasts serve as important platforms to educate, advocate and gain a deeper understanding of each other and our history.

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As Veterans Day fast approaches, it's important to take the time and reflect on the significance of this observance to honor the brave servicemembers who've answered the call of duty. Let's take a closer look at the history of this federal holiday before diving into some ways you can participate.

From Armistice to Veterans Day
The first Veterans Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919 — however, the holiday didn't always go by that name. Following the end of the first World War, President Wilson commemorated the 11th day of the 11th month as Armistice Day; but it wasn't until 1926 that the United States Congress officially recognized the holiday.

After World War II, President Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation, both renaming the observance and shifting its focus to honor all of our nation's veterans.

How To Observe Veterans Day and Honor Our Nation's Heroes
Whether you have a servicemember in your life or you're looking for more ways to show your gratitude this Veterans Day, here are a few ideas to honor our veterans:

1. Take a Moment of Silence
Each year on Veterans Day, there are two minutes set aside for a moment of silence to honor those who have served and their family members at 2:11 PM EST.

2. Extend Your Gratitude
If you know a veteran or meet one, don't forget to thank them for their service. Even this simple expression of appreciation can have a huge impact.

3. Send a Letter or Care Package
Consider sending a personal letter and care package to our servicemembers. Who doesn't appreciate a nice note and fun treats every once in a while, especially while you're away from home?

4. Assist a Veteran You Know
If you have a veteran in your life, be sure to check in with them and see if there's anything you can help them with.

5. Support Military Families in Need
Even if you don't know a military family personally, there are plenty of organizations, like Soldiers' Angels, that allow you to lend a helping hand to families in need.

6. Help Unhoused Vets
Nobody deserves to live on the streets, but especially those who have served our country. Contributing your time or money to organizations like U.S. Vets can go a long way in helping unhoused veterans get back on their feet with a roof over their heads.

7. Make a Donation
If you're feeling generous, consider making a donation to any number of veteran organizations. For example, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a great nonprofit offering life-changing support to our nation's heroes.

8. Volunteer Your Time
In addition to U.S. Vets and DAV, there are countless other nonprofits and charities that are in need of helping hands. Volunteering your time at these organizations can be a great way to give back and serve those who have already served.

9. Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
Beyond helping veterans through charity organizations, you can also lend your support to businesses owned by servicemembers. Whether it's a local store or a national brand, providing this economic support is crucial to keep these businesses thriving.

10. Visit a Veteran Memorial
Finally, you can pay your respects to the brave servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice by visiting a local or national veterans' memorial. Feel free to leave a small token of your respect in a fountain or on a gravestone, and consider donating if the memorial has the option.

While our list stops there, that doesn't mean yours should! Don't be afraid to get involved with your local community and find out more ways you can help give back to our nation's heroes.

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While we should be thanking our firefighters, police, paramedics and EMTs every day, October 28 is National First Responders Day, which offers a unique opportunity to show our appreciation. These heroic men and women are the first ones on the scene, no matter the incident, whether it's an accident, tragedy or natural disaster. They devote their lives to making the world a better — and safer — place.

The creation of National First Responders Day
The day of recognition is a relatively new holiday, but it was a long time coming. Congress made October 28 National First Responders Day in 2017, though the first bipartisan resolution passed through the Senate in 2019.

At the time, there were about "4.6 million career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics serving communities all across the United States," according to the Department of Homeland Security. Even before the creation of National First Responders Day, Americans knew how valuable and necessary they were.

First Responders: The heroes of the pandemic
Only a few months after the first recognition of National First Responder Day, the COVID-19 pandemic would sweep the globe. First responders were the ones who stepped forward when no one else could.

Often first on the scene, emergency responders are exposed to unique and stressful situations that increase their likelihood of contraction. According to The Associated Press, many first responders have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19. And while the height of the pandemic is behind us, it's still just as crucial to support these brave front-line workers.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Continuing to Champion Public Safety
Outside of the pandemic, natural disasters caused destruction across the U.S. in the last few years, requiring firefighters, EMT providers and other first responders to show up in unprecedented force.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 60% of the topsoil and subsoil in the U.S. is experiencing moderate to severe drought. This has led to a staggering increase in wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that over 22 million acres of land were burned between 2020 and 2023. Firefighters from around the nation risked their lives and left their families to protect the environment and American citizens.

Beyond the pervasive fires, the U.S. has faced an increase in floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's data shows that there have been 23 weather disasters in 2023, as of September 25, with the number steadily rising since the 1980s.

Supporting Our First Responders Act
During the pandemic, it quickly became clear that the additional burdens placed on first responders were causing strain on the system. As a result, the same emergency situation could receive vastly different responses depending on where you live.

To combat these issues and provide greater support to critical responders, Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Carey (R-OH) have proposed the bipartisan Supporting Our First Responders Act.

This Act would authorize $50 million each year for the next 5 years for the new Department of Health and Human Services grant program. The aim of this program is to help both EMS providers and the personnel on the ground with:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Mental health care
  • Training reimbursements
  • Facility upgrades
  • And more

While the bill hasn't passed yet, it would undoubtedly help ease the stress put on EMS providers from the start of the pandemic.

Commemorating National First Responder Day
When National First Responders Day was announced, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) explained the reason for the new day of recognition.

"Our first responders save countless lives every day, and many tragically pay the ultimate price in the line of duty — a sacrifice we should never forget. Designating a day to honor their service and sacrifice is the least we can do to express our gratitude," he said in a June 7, 2019 press release.

The 116th Congress wrote in the act that "During times of national crisis, first responders have consistently been a source of aid, hope, and comfort for all Americans."

Show your support for America's brave first responders by thanking them for their service or donating to a first responder charity. Here are a few to choose from:

National First Responders Day is your opportunity to show gratitude and recognize the professionals who play an important role in ensuring the safety of every American citizen.

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October 26th marks National Day of the Deployed — an observance created by the organization Soldier's Angels to honor the heroic men and women currently deployed. In other words, it's a day to say "Thank you" for all the sacrifices our active duty servicemembers and their families make in the name of our country.

Of course, this gratitude can extend beyond words to actions, such as sending a care package or volunteering to help out veterans and military families. But before we dive into ways you can support our deployed soldiers, let's first understand why we celebrate the Day of the Deployed.

The history behind the Day of the Deployed
First celebrated in 2006 — when the group Soldiers' Angels approached then-Governor of North Dakota, John Hoeven, to proclaim the day as a time to honor active-duty servicemembers — the Day of the Deployed is a relatively new holiday. However, this was only the start, as, by 2010, the movement to recognize October 26th as the Day of the Deployed had grown to 40 states.

In 2011, Hoeven, who was then a Senator, sponsored a unanimously agreed-upon resolution to designate October 26 as an official national holiday, which is now observed by all 50 states.

But how can you participate in the Day of the Deployed?

Observing the Day of the Deployed
When our troops are deployed, they must leave behind their families, their homes, and almost everything that's familiar to them in service to their country. These significant sacrifices warrant recognition.

Here are a few ways you can give back to those who are currently deployed and their families:

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

1. Write a letter
One simple way to brighten a soldier's day is to send a thoughtful letter. Even if you don't know them personally, writing a letter to a stranger is sure to lift their spirits, especially when they may be missing home. This small and easy gesture goes a long way in showing your support and spreading love.

2. Send a care package
Speaking of spreading love, nothing shows you care more than a care package — after all, it's in the name! Whether it's clothes, toiletries, snacks or other treats, sending a package of goodies is a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face. Opening up a box of brand-new products from back home is a huge boost to morale, especially when soldiers are deployed overseas in unfamiliar countries.

3. Help a military family
If you know someone who is currently deployed, be a good neighbor and check in with their family. There's a long list of ways you can support them, from offering to help out with repairs around the house to cooking meals or watching their kids. Anything can help take the load off a little — even just listening to them talk about their own challenges.

4. Join a local event
Many communities organize local events, fundraisers and other gatherings on and around the Day of the Deployed to help support our soldiers and their families. Search for one near you to participate in, or, better yet, ask some friends to go with you. These are great opportunities to spread awareness, show your support and give back to the community.

5. Connect with Soldier's Angels
Whether you're having difficulty finding organizations near you or you're interested in the work they're doing, consider connecting with or supporting Soldiers' Angels. Donations are always a welcome option, but with both in-person and virtual volunteering options, anyone is capable of lending a helping hand.