The year 2020 saw the largest mobilization of National Guard troops since World War II, brought largely by the coronavirus pandemic and protests following the police killing of George Floyd, The Washington Post reports.
According to data from the National Guard, tens of thousands of Guardsmen were mobilized in every state, three U.S. territories and in Washington, D.C. In all, more than 8.4 million duty days were logged in, according to the Post, with the vast majority spent on efforts aiding in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Guard took part in administering tests, the distribution of protective equipment and retrieving those who had died in some cases.
Those missions sparked pride in many Guardsmen over their ability to aid in crises, though some expressed concerns over dealing with bureaucratic issues.
Others were conflicted over their role in helping quell violence that sometimes sparked from the protests that emerged across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Four officers were charged in his killing.
Khaled Abdelghany, a Black member of the D.C. Guard, was seen on a May 30 video mouthing, "I'm Black and I'm proud."
"We were conflicted, we were in pain, we were feeling every emotion," Abdelghany told the Post. "I'm a Black man before I put the uniform on."
Some Guard members said they wouldn't wear their uniforms while traveling to the sites they were sent to help police protect. Others, however, noted that while some protesters chanted "Defund the police," none made such chants about defunding the Guard.
Other Guard members helped with wildfires in the West.
Jason Robertson of the California National Guard helped with food bank operations.
"I'm very grateful for getting called up for that," he said.
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