While they're away, and at times when they return, many will need the assistance of METEF, the Military Enhancement Training Education Fund, which provides support to Guard members and their families.
That fund got a $10,000 boost on Monday with a donation from the Sertoma Club of Lafayette, which used part of the money raised from its 2008 Sertoma Air Show to offer its assistance.
"The Sertoma Club is pleased to offer help to these heroes," said Ron Chauffe, who was in charge of the highly-successful 2008 air show and who lobbied Sertoma members to direct funds toward the Guard. "The many deployments of the 256th create hardships for its members and their families."
Brig. Gen. Glen Curtis, director of the joint staff, and Brig. Gen. Brod Veillon, assistant adjutant general, were on hand to receive the donation at Monday's Sertoma Club meeting.
For members of the Guard, METEF funds can be used for emergencies, financial hardships, transportation and reintegration programs. For their families, funds may be used to provide transportation to medical facilities should the soldier return from Iraq injured, as well as help with financial hardships on the home front and reintegration.
METEF also can be applied toward youth programs and civic organizations.
"It's not appropriate to use federal funds for those purposes," said Veillon, who noted that METEF funds are separate from the Guard's operating budget.
"It's 501-C3," Curtis said. "They have a board of directors, and they make the decisions. It's strictly (for) special needs."
That board includes former Guard members familiar with the situations facing military families.
Curtis, too, is familiar with the dynamic as an Iraq veteran.
"It's always harder on the families, believe me," he said. "When you're there, you have your mission. You know what to expect. The family always expects the worst, and they don't know what's going on.
"Now, though, there are Internet cafés, and soldiers have video cams on their computers. You may not be able to communicate every day, but you can contact them very frequently. That helps a lot."
Curtis said most 256th members are getting settled into their duty locations in Iraq after March 5 Tiger Day ceremonies at Camp Shelby, Miss. and acclimation in Kuwait.
"It takes 7-10 days to get acclimated to your environment," he said. "So they get to Kuwait first for two weeks to train, but also to be acclimated."
Curtis told Sertoma members of one 170-man unit that recently returned from convoy support duty that hadn't traded hostile fire in a year.
"Convoy security was always the toughest job since Day One over there," Curtis said. "Before, they would average 60 hits a day. But we are making progress, exponentially, in Iraq. Shops are opening in Baghdad. Streets are being repaired. They're coming back."