The Greater Fort Smith Region showed its dedication to our warriors this past weekend through Christmas Honors at the Fort Smith National Cemetery.
Make no mistake, the outpouring of affection goes far beyond the beauty of those white stone markers. It warms the hearts of today's citizen warriors who routinely are deployed for weeks and months at a time.
After spending some time on this chilly December Wednesday with troops from the 142nd Fires Brigade and with 188th Air Guard members, I realized these men and women - through Christmas Honors - know now that their community will, indeed, remember their service someday.
The weekends away from families, the pressure of ramping up for deployment, the unknown that awaits them in Afghanistan and Iraq is difficult. These families can never be reimbursed for that sacrifice. However, the wreaths and ribbons - and the sentiment attached to the new ritual - is meaningful to our service members and their families, far more than we civilians can understand.
For those "bottom liners" among us who wonder how our staunch support for the military helps us in the here and now, think about how tough 2009 has been. Wonder what would happen if military 1,000 jobs had gone away in the 2005 BRAC. Wonder how many more would be unemployed without the approximately $12 million of construction underway at the air guard base. And wonder about the approximately $6 million of construction currently in progress at Fort Chaffee.
Christmas Honors is an emotional response of thanksgiving for sacrifice and appreciation for service. It's also an intellectual decision to support a major economic component in this town founded by the military.
Keep up the terrific work, Greater Fort Smith Region! And be safe, our friends in the armed forces. Enjoy our "living Christmas card" we've lovingly prepared for you at the Fort Smith National Cemetery. Betcha we'll do it again next year, and the year after, and the year after.
Because it's the right thing to do.