Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform are fighting overseas in an effort to bring peace to that region. But more are needed, and the Wisconsin Army National Guard is offering increased bonuses for new and re-enlisting soldiers.
Twenty-year-old John Dibenardo enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in October and come June, he'll head to Oklahoma for basic training.
"I decided I wanted to serve my country, and the benefits they offer are awesome," says DiBenardo.
The National Guard is now increasing bonuses and benefits, reflecting the guard's desire to retain skilled soldiers and add new ones.
"We're offering a $15,000 bonus for soldiers currently serving and wishing to extend for six years; if they wish to extend for three years, we're offering $7,500," says Srg. Chad Olson.
The guard is also offering a $15,000 bonus to former military personnel who've served on active duty, who wish to come aboard with the national guard, and for new enlistees like John, a bonus of up to $10,000.
"Recruiting is challenging right now; we're doing better at this point than last year; we're looking for people who wish to serve their country," says Olson.
In addition to bonuses, the Wisconsin Guard will pay 100 percent of a soldier's college tuition to any Wisconsin state school, plus books and fees.
Srg. Olson says given the current military situation, the guard can't guarantee that soldiers will only be serving one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.
Deployment to Iraq is a possibility, and John says he'd be ready and honored to serve his country.
Sgt. Olson says more than 1200 people enlisted in the Wisconsin Guard in 2004, and he says they're on track to beat that number this year.