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A citizen-soldier and history

A unique perspective on the WNG

Retired Colonel Rick Patterson who served for five consecutive decades in the Washington National Guard. Photo credit: Courtesy image

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Rick Patterson has been involved with the Washington National Guard since he was a youngster.

"My family spent many summers on American Lake, and we stayed in National Guard-owned camping trailers parked at the Guard's beach there," he began.

"Later, when both my brother and I were ready to enlist for service, the Guard was the obvious home for us."

After going to college for a year, Patterson enlisted as a private in the Guard in May, 1967.

He initially served as a technician on the National Guard Nike missile site on Vashon Island. Five years later he attended Officer Candidate School, earning his commission in 1974.

From that time on until 2004, Patterson served in the Air Defense, Transportation, Inspector General Corps and Public Affairs professions.

In 2008, Patterson began his service on the Board of Directors of the Washington National Guard State Historical Society and with the Washington National Guard Museum at Camp Murray. He retired from the board in 2021.

The WNG Museum collection includes thousands of pages of manuscript and hundreds of books and pamphlets.

With this storehouse of history close at hand, Dr. William Woodward, retired Colonel Andy Leneweaver and Patterson gathered stories and photographs and put together a short pictorial history that provides the Washington family and friend another look at the Guard.

"We partnered with Acadia Publishing, and through their "Images of America" series published Washington National Guard, capturing photos and narrative from our earliest days in the Washington Territory, to the Great War, WWII, the Cold War and to thousands of deployments overseas in the Global War on Terrorism," explained Patterson.

The book was published in 2019, and all royalties go to the Washington National Guard State Historical Society.

"I served in five consecutive decades, the 1960s through the 2000s," continued Patterson.

He went on to say that the biggest change that has taken place since the late 1990s is the reliance on the Guard and Reserve to conduct the new and changing missions of our active-duty counterparts."

It's not the "Guard of our father's day, and we're not week-end warriors anymore," he continued.

"The reservist's commitment today needs to be that this is not a part time job, but a true second career, demanding significant time, energy and dedication."

It is at this juncture that Patterson - who as a youngster spent time at Camp Murray, who served for decades as an enlisted soldier and officer in the WNG, who then after retirement involved himself in preserving and extending the history of the Guard - makes a very telling point as to what it means to be a citizen-soldier.

"I hope I will be seen as devoted to helping society, my fellow citizens, and my community as a good place to live, learn and love," he concluded.

"But I hope I haven't lost my desire to pass on what I've learned to others.... I also hope the young Guardsmen take away a little understanding of their history from the Washington National Guard Museum, where I have committed a good amount of effort over the years."

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