On the final Monday in May each year we pause as a nation to pay our respects to those members of the Armed forces who have devoted themselves and risked their lives to the defense of our nation. This year, while all else has changed, we continue this important task. In our country’s history, members of our armed forces have sacrificed in order to protect Americans on every continent. Now, the battle is at home. And the fight is against an invisible foe. Nevertheless, members of our armed forces have stood up in our defense.
In every state across our nation, members of our armed forces are working together with first responders to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. States have activated over 47,000 National guard soldiers and airmen to participate in the response to COVID-19.
For example, the New York National Guard (NYNG) is currently operating five antibody testing sites, and thousands of tests have been administered. The NYNG is also operating a hand sanitizer delivery mission, where more than 60,000 gallons of sanitizer have been distributed in the lower Hudson Valley. National Guard members have taken on further initiatives to address food supply issues. In the state of Washington, farmers who could not sell their produce to restaurants or food establishments donated hundreds of tons of potatoes, and the National Guard has distributed more than 200,000 pounds of potatoes in Tacoma.
And Guard members continue to transform facilities into COVID-19 relief centers. For example, Air Force Airman 1st Class Arielle Robles, an administration specialist with the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing, assisted in building a recovery center on her college campus.
Sadly, we have new names to add to the venerated list of those individuals who sacrificed their lives for our country. Captain Douglass Hickok, a 57-year-old physician assistant in the New Jersey National Guard, was the first servicemember to succumb to COVID-19. In total the Department of Defense has reported that 25 servicemembers and civilian contractors have lost their lives to this virus, and they and their families are in our thoughts and prayers on this day.
The Department of Justice remains committed to doing everything in its power to assist our servicemembers as they operate in this complex and dynamic battlefield. The department also remains solidly committed to continue fighting for our servicemembers and veterans. On this day especially, as we remember those who have fought and died for us, we thank all servicemembers, veterans, and their families for their service, dedication, and sacrifice.
Eric S. Dreiband
Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division