Happy Birthday, National Guard

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Contributed by Andrew Waldman

The National Guard celebrates its 376th birthday in December

On Dec. 13, 1636, a decree from the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the formation of the North, South and East regiments of the Massachusetts militia. All men, aged 16 to 60, were required to take up arms and serve in defense of their homes and communities.

At the time, the Pequot Indians posed the gravest threat to the colonists, who had landed in New England a few decades earlier. That’s why all men – who furnished their own firearms, as well – were required to muster when called to serve.

Those original units, which continue today as the Massachusetts Army Guard’s 181st Infantry, 182nd Cavalry, 101st Field Artillery and 101st Engineers, are the oldest in the military created by legislative action and represent what historians accept as the first National Guardsmen in our history.

Of course, there is some friendly disagreement on that front. Non-legislated units of militiamen met in Florida (Sept. 16, 1565), New Mexico (April 30, 1598),  and Virginia (May 14, 1607) before they did in Massachusetts.

Regardless of these disputes, Guardsmen proudly claim the nation’s longest military heritage, beating out the Marines and Army by many, many years. Remember to wish your local militia men and women a happy birthday Dec. 13.

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