I’ve always valued our National Guard, and now, as Commander-in-Chief, I witnessed, first-hand, their everyday dedication and I have gained a deeper appreciation for the men and women who wear the uniform. They provide relief in some of our state’s most difficult times. Earlier this month, when eleven teens in Clay County were seriously injured in a horrific accident, we were again reminded of our heroic National Guard members.
I am truly thankful for Air Guard Captain Jeremy Mullins who used his training and worked to save lives that morning. Joanne and I, along with the Clay community, mourn the loss of Kara Conley and extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. And while we are saddened by such a tragic loss, we are also grateful to Jeremy who used his guard training, and provided life-saving care to the others involved in the accident with Kara that day.
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of recognizing Jeremy with two of our state’s highest citizen honors, a Distinguished West Virginian award and a Certificate of Recognition for his bravery and heroic actions. I was once again reminded of how truly blessed all West Virginians are to have such compassionate, patriotic, and prepared individuals who serve as members of our National Guard-and always answer the call for help. I’m pleased to say we, as a state, are showing our appreciation and dedication to the work of our guard members, like Jeremy, through two improvement projects in Logan and Kanawha counties.
Many of you may recall, in 2005 the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, report threatened to close the 130th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia National Guard due to areas in need of improvement. I remember it clearly. I remember how our guard members feared they’d be forced to leave our great state, forced to leave their private sector jobs, and leave the hometowns they love because of federal cuts.
This week, I announced a new dirt air strip will be built on reclaimed mine land in Logan County providing our Air Guard crews with a new training location. This is in addition to the infra-red lighting take-off and landing training our pilots have been conducting on Logan County Airport’s paved runways. I also joined many local, state and federal leaders in Charleston announcing our efforts to support the 130th Airlift Wing include building a bridge over the Elk River to establish a new public entrance into Coonskin Park. The current park entrance requires motor vehicle traffic to pass through the base. Once the new bridge is constructed, the current park entrance will be closed.
These projects not only secure the base and near 1,100 Air National Guard jobs, they also will create dozens and dozens of construction jobs, and secure emergency firefighting services for our state’s largest airport.
So many individuals, like the Kanawha County Commission, are to be thanked for making these projects a reality. On behalf of all West Virginians, I’m proud to be able to not only say thank you to our guard members like Captain Jeremy Mullins - but to show them a grateful state’s appreciation for all they do.