By Valerie Baldowski
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) has received the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Eagle Award.
Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Reserve Committee, and the Senate National Guard Caucus, received the award Tuesday during a ceremony hosted by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard (EANG) in Washington, D.C.
The award was presented to him in recognition of his support for the National Guard, and for legislation he has pushed for in the Senate to benefit members of the National Guard and Reserve.
"If we're going to call on our guardsmen and women to defend and protect our nation, we need to show that we stand behind them, and appreciate the tough challenges they face," said Chambliss in a press release. "I am humbled to receive this award, and I will accept it on behalf of our courageous citizen-soldiers, and their families in Georgia and around the country."
The senator promised his continued support for military personnel.
"I pledge that I will continue to work with the Armed Services Committee, and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that the needs of our men and women in uniform are met," he said.
The ceremony, held in a meeting room of the Rayburn House Office building, was attended by about 200 members of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard. Also in attendance were several members of Congress and their staffs, and representatives from the Army National Guard and Air National Guard headquarters.
After the National Anthem, remarks were given by Command Sgt. Major (Ret.) Frank Lever, president of the EANG.
The organization was pleased to give Chambliss the award, said Frank Yoakum, the event's organizer. "It's tremendous to have a man of that stature, and to have him working on behalf of the National Guard," said Yoakum, who is also the legislative director of EANG. "He is a great treasure to have in your corner."
According to Chambliss' office, the senator introduced the National Guard and Reserve Retirement Modernization Act, incorporated in the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. The act, which became law in January 2008, reduces the age for receipt of retirement pay, by three months (counting down from age 60), for every 90 days a Guard or Reserve member spends on active duty, supporting a contingency operation.
Chambliss also introduced legislation making the provision retroactive to include any duty performed since Sept. 11, 2001.
Additionally, in 2007, the U.S. Senate passed legislation Chambliss introduced with several of his colleagues to create the "Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program" for National Guard personnel returning from combat. The program focuses on support for soldiers and their families during each phase of their deployment cycle.
Yoakum said he appreciates Chambliss' efforts in advocating for legislation to aid citizen-soldiers. "He is more of a lion than a lamb in accepting that challenge, and stepping out on behalf of the Guard," Yoakum said. "He's fearless."