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DEPLOYED TO THE CAPITOL

Local guardsman shares Inauguration Day experience

National Guard member Raffaele Masi, 22, of Marquette, stands with his parents, Domenick and Lina Masi at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., during his graduation from training. He has served with the Guard for two years and was deployed to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. (Photo courtesy of Raffaele Masi via 8-18 Media)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature, written by 8-18 Media Reporter Anja McBride, 16, is the first 8-18 Media article to run in The Mining Journal as part of an ongoing partnership between the two entities to highlight youth news reporting in Marquette County.

MARQUETTE — Raffaele Masi, 22, originally from New York City and currently living in Marquette, spends most of his time at the Northern Michigan University Olympic training site preparing for the upcoming Olympic wrestling trials, but for the past two years, he has served in the National Guard one weekend a month. His unit drills out of Sault Ste. Marie. Recently, his unit of approximately 200 was deployed to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Due to the current pandemic, there were many restrictions he had to face during his deployment to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, he was subjected to rapid testing for COVID-19 at their armory before they left the area, and they were also tested when they arrived in D.C., and once again upon their return to Marquette.

“We had to wear our masks all the time no matter where we were,” Masi said. “For the airport we didn’t have to go through security or anything. They just drove us onto the runway and got us onto a plane, which could have been also due to COVID to keep us out of the airport.”

It was Masi’s first time in D.C., but his unit did not get to see the inauguration up close because they were on duty and he had a job to do.

“We were riot control: using riot shields and batons and being ready in the event something was to take place. I’m glad nothing did. So most of our time was spent sitting around and waiting,” Masi explained.

Given the political climate, it registered to Masi that he was taking part in a historic moment.

“I guess at first we were going through the motions. With the Army, it is time and place and that’s it, just do it. At first, we were just doing everything and then it settled in when we were in D.C. and me and my friends were talking about it and we were like, ‘We are here for the inauguration of 2021.’ It’s pretty crazy, a pretty historic event.”

Mainstream media images showed National Guard troops sleeping in parking garages during their deployment in D.C. Masi confirmed he was one of the National Guardsmen who spent one night sleeping in a parking garage.

“It was pretty cold, but in my opinion if that’s the worst thing I have to do in the Army is spend a night in the parking garage, I’m fine with it,” Masi said.

Even though sleeping in a parking garage was uncomfortable, Masi has not lost sight of what makes being in the National Guard worth it.

“I always say the main reason that I signed up for the Army would be to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. That’s what America was founded on and I think that’s something good to stand for,” Masi stated.

Serving in the National Guard has taught Masi some pretty big life lessons over the last two years.

“If you need to get something done it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of teamwork. A lot of things you are not going to be able to do by yourself, so you are going to have to work with others and work hard,” Masi said.

When kids become of age and are interested in joining the National Guard, Masi recommends it.

“The National Guard is a really good way to join the service, since it is a weekend a month. You are committed because you are on call too, like I didn’t know I was going to D.C. and I did, but if you are not as interested in being sent to any Army installation in America you don’t really have a say, but in the Guard you have a choice of where you drill.”

Masi will continue to serve in the National Guard while working toward his goal to be a member of the 2021 Olympic wrestling team.

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