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Having evolved from their role as citizen soldiers at home, this week the National Guard deservedly won a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Friday's 93-7 Senate vote was part of passage of the Defense Reauthorization Act.

Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons co-sponsored the amendment that now gives the Guard a stronger voice in the Pentagon's planning.

Sen. Carper has a personal stake in seeing to this needed change. As an 18-year veteran of Delaware's National Guard and former governor of the state, he's well-acquainted with this reserve militia's service during national and local disasters.

Seared in many Delawareans minds is the role the Guard played in quelling Wilmington's 1968 riots brought on by the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

But it can't be ignored that the Guard's role in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 war with Iraq forever changed the perception of these battle-ready forces at home.

Sen. Coons said the "highly specialized skills used in those conflicts ought to be part of the Pentagon's long-term planning process."

And they did it abroad just as other civilian militias in this country's history, with a side-by-side, boots-on-the ground contribution with troops from our other four military branches here and abroad.

This fact is important because it illustrates the difference between rewarding the Guard, which is admirable, and recognizing the assets they bring to bear to active duty commands regardless of their location.

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