This week, we celebrate Armed Forces Week in Huntsville – not just Armed Forces Day, but Monday through Friday. We celebrate it like no other community.
And why not? Huntsville’s identity has been shaped by the military. We wouldn’t be nicknamed “Rocket City” if it weren’t for Redstone Arsenal and the Von Braun rocket team’s pioneering work for our Army. The technological nature of Huntsville, Madison County and North Alabama grew from those roots.
Our city expanded through the Base Realignment and Closure movement of 1995 with the transfer of the Aviation Troop Command from St. Louis. It grew once again in the 2005 BRAC when the four-star Army Materiel Command and other organizations moved to Huntsville.
As a result, our community has one of the highest concentrations of scientists and engineers in the country. We have countless retired military personnel who have chosen to make Huntsville their post-career homes. If nothing else, we celebrate our military because its presence drives our economy. Redstone Arsenal itself has more than a $12.7 billion economic impact to the area, according to the most recent studies.
Our celebration of Armed Forces Week is, of course, much more than an economic thank you. It’s a deep, personal appreciation.
More than many communities, our residents understand the sacrifices our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and their families make – from a service member and their family moving every few years during a military career to multiple deployments and time away from families to the pain of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) to the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of one’s life.
Perhaps our understanding and appreciation come from the large number of our citizens who have served in the military. And even if they haven’t served in uniform, countless others demonstrate their passion for our nation in their work in civil service or as defense contractors, making important contributions to our nation’s defense in areas like space, missile defense, aviation and logistics.
Maybe we still have the patriotic excitement that the space race generated in the 1960s. Or, maybe our patriotism comes from the defense jobs that give many of our citizens a closer look at the price of freedom that the members of our Armed Forces pay.
This year, we commemorate the 100th Anniversary of World War I. The whole nation felt the impact of World War I, and nearly every family worried that a family member might die in battle. We were equally affected by World War II and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
Today, many American citizens don’t personally know anyone who serves in our military and most don’t know anyone who has died defending our nation.
Though the real cost of our freedom is felt by few, it’s important as ever that our community regularly celebrates our Armed Forces and thank those who are brave and selfless enough to protect our country and defend our freedoms. To the men and women in uniform, past and present, and their families who have sacrificed so much: Thank you for your service!
Kris McBride is the Third Region President of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) and works as a Vice President, Programs at Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense. Details about this photo can be found here.