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‘Backbone of our country’: Rep. Dingell treats Nat’l Guard troops to lunch on Jan. 6 anniversary

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell. (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press/TNS)

On the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell delivered lunch Thursday to members of the Michigan National Guard who were deployed to Washington, D.C. afterward.

The lunch — sandwiches, soup, potato chips and cookies from Pete’s Place in Taylor — was served at the Taylor Armory at 12450 Beech Daly. About two dozen Guard members partook.

“I wanted to make sure it was good,” said Dingell, D-Dearborn. “Unfortunately, they weren’t fed as well as they should have been in Washington.”

Early on in the guard’s extended deployment in D.C., meal quality was a problem. So much so that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited D.C. personally to dine with the deployed soldiers.

Dingell called the National Guard “the backbone of our country.”

At one point in the months-long stay of National Guard members in Washington, Michigan contributed 20% of all the guard members protecting the Capitol.

“I asked that question,” Dingell said. “And I’m proud of the fact that our guards stood up and volunteered to serve. They wanted to be there…and they were proud to be there because they love their country.

“I don’t think people realize the role Michigan played,” Dingell said. “They were responsible for all of the National Guard troops on the ground protecting the Capitol. They really played a critical role.”

Command Sgt. Major William Russell III, a 22-year veteran with the Michigan National Guard, said that the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” ethos is “the old guard.”

“From the start of my career, it was one weekend, a month, two weeks out the year,” Russell said. “But as we’ve become more involved in fighting our nation’s battles and defending our state, there is always something that’s going on. Whether it be nationally or locally.”

Col. Chris McKinney led the 177th Military Police Brigade last year during its time at the Capitol. He said that outside of some commands given early on, the Michiganians who protected the Capitol all volunteered to do so.

“One thing that you have to understand is that all of those people, soldiers, and airmen right from Michigan were volunteers for those missions,” McKinney said. “There was very few things that we actually had to command.”

McKinney added: “This was a great opportunity for them as a service member, because a lot of their own employment wasn’t available for them during that, during the height of COVID.”

And those who fell on family or employment hardships were allowed to make those claims and return home, he said.

In April 2021, Col. Russel Harden took over the unit.

“These great Americans are not joining because of the one weekend a month, two weeks thing out there,” Harden said. “They’re actually joining to do missions.”

For the 177th, returning to Michigan from D.C. was no return to normal. Once they got back, the unit was tasked with COVID-19 testing.

“They’ve been the backbone of the state’s operations on COVID,” Dingell said. “They didn’t get a break. They got home and got right back to work in our communities, helping to keep us safe.”

In 2020, the Michigan National Guard responded to flooding in Midland, police protests in Lansing and Grand Rapids, and even as far away as Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“It’s a very busy National Guard these days,” McKinney said.


(c) 2022 The Detroit News

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