BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Much like other states, North Dakota has a large number of members of the National Guard who call the state their home. Under the command of Governor Doug Burgum, these brave individuals and employees have been extremely busy recently — but it’s all worth it to protect the United States, both at and away from home.

“In the last couple of years,” explains ND National Guard Adjutant General Alan Dohrmann, “we’ve deployed over 500 Guardsmen each in the last two years for missions both in the United States and overseas. Our motto is ‘always ready’, ‘always there’, and we pride ourselves on being ready when our citizens need us.”

“After they saved many lives during the pandemic,” Governor Burgum states, “they were thrown right into getting their Blackhawks going and dropping sandbags to prevent catastrophic flooding near the town of Cavalier, as well as saving the town of Medora by fighting fires in the previous year. Even if it’s helping on a train derailment, they’re always ready to do incredible work and serve the people of North Dakota.”

Many recent events have not only stressed the importance of having an emergency response force in our state — but at the same time, have also shown that this is a stressful duty that involves responding to dangerous events quite often. Anyone who has experienced so many difficult situations, and continues to do so, deserves an opportunity to relax and be recognized for their actions. This is what the Governor’s Military Ball is for — an annual soiree dedicated to honoring those who have served the state and country.

On Saturday, March 18, National Guard members both past and present convened in the Raddison hotel in downtown Bismarck, where they came together for a grand evening of comradery and elegance. Those who attended did so in full uniform, and were treated to a full dinner and drink service. In military tradition, guests were also serenaded with songs from the Northern Lights Chorus, including both the National Anthem and the anthems of the U.S. Military’s differeng branches, as well as performances of Taps and other brass classics.

From the Army to the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, every branch of the armed forces was acknowledged at the ball, either in songs, speeches, or both. A series of toasts was also called before the feast — which consisted of not only toasts to the state and current National Guard, but to all armed forces, as well as those who gave their lives in the line of duty. After the toast and meal, awards were given out to individuals for going above and beyond in and around the field. It’s worth noting, however, that those in the armed forces weren’t the only ones thanked during the night.

“Tonight is a night of gratitude and celebration,” the governor stated at the event. “We have a chance to honor the best of the best from the last year — and recognize not just the soldiers, but also all of their families, the employers who help support the National Guard, and the Veteran’s Organizations that aid our soldiers both here and abroad.”

“It’s always great to bring the team together,” notes Dohrman. “It’s the broader team: the folks from the Military Affairs Committees and the communities around us, to our elected leaders, or legislators, and our governor — all of those that supported us throughout the year.

While not every North Dakotan can attend an event such as this, it’s the belief of the legislature hosting the ball that their thanks — and the sincerity of the event — can get across the message of just how valuable the work of the National Guard truly is to our state.

“This is one of the great events of the year, giving an opportunity to be with all the leadership and their families,” states Burgum. “I always look forward to it. ‘Gratitude’ is our watch word in our administration, and tonight’s an opportunity on behalf of all North Dakotans to really express our appreciation for the men and women who have served in the military of the United States of America.”

Gratitude is indeed the message of the evening as well — and nobody, it seems, is more thankful than the governor himself.

“One of the greatest honors I think any governor has,” Burgum says, “is the opportunity to serve as the Commander-in-Chief. North Dakota’s National Guard is the best in the nation- no doubt. When our teams are overseas, people ask for them — they need their help.”

Burgum’s claim about ND’s National Guard being our country’s finest is no exaggaration, either: the Happy Hooligans branch in Fargo boasts most awards won by any Air Guard Unit, who are regularly on active missions around the world.

When all is said and done, the Governor’s Military Ball is far more than a chance for veterans and state leaders to enjoy an enchanted evening. It is an evening to both celebrate the past good deeds performed by the organizations, as well as one hosted in ancitipation of the many good things that the group hopes to accomplish going forward. Regardless of what situations they become involved with, however, one thing is for sure: whenever they are needed, the Guard will be there to assist the residents of North Dakota who need them.

To learn more about the ND National Guard, visit their website here.