Starting Tuesday at 9 a.m., the Arkansas National Guard will begin hosting a series of monthly events around the state aimed at reconnecting the many military members who live in the state.
Named the All Services Roll Call, the inaugural event will take place at the National Guard armory in Searcy (3105 South Main St.).
The free event will include information booths for the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, representatives from the offices of Arkansas' congressional delegation, veterans service organizations, the Arkansas Military Affairs Council and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
"Our reason for doing this is simple: we want to reestablish contact and strengthen our relationships with retirees and veterans across the state of Arkansas," said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs, Arkansas' adjutant general, in a press release. "It doesn't matter which branch of service; whether active, reserve, or National Guard. All our former service members need to know we still care about them and their families."
Six other similar events at National Guard armories are already scheduled over the next six months:
Bentonville (June 27), Jonesboro (July 25), El Dorado (Aug. 22), Hot Springs (Sept. 26), West Memphis (Oct. 24), and Fort Smith (Nov. 28).
The monthly events come as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Stubbs was a member of the Arkansas National Guard when its 39th infantry brigade deployed to Iraq in 2004.
"I've got guys that ... I can tell you things about stuff my guys did that would just make you shake your head," Stubbs told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in March. "Just incredible things, but the vast majority of them are not wearing the uniform anymore. They're out. They've moved on, maybe retired from the guard. But they're just ... they're doing jobs out there in parts of our community and nobody knows just how special they really are."
Stubbs said that the All Services Roll Call "couldn't come at a better time, 20 years after [Iraq]. Not just [Iraq]. Anybody that served, anybody that just did an enlistment, never went anywhere. We want to bring our military communities back together."