Being next-door neighbors to a major military installation highlights the reality that living in a nation with a strong, civilian-controlled defense force has a lot of fringe benefits.
Military posts are good for local economies, especially when those local economies have other strong components.
The benefits of a career in the armed forces are brought into sharp focus for young people as many employees of the Department of Defense also end up being active in local civic organizations.
There's also the reality that many local civic organizations, from Scouts to Lions to Masons, benefit from the leaders they have who literally earned their stripes.
There are a lot of side benefits to having a community with a strong military presence, but it's important to keep in mind that they are only side benefits, and the harsh reality of the U.S. Armed Forces is that our friends, relatives and neighbors who serve all too frequently are pressed into service and obliged to go enthusiastically into harm's way.
Since the emergence of the U.S. as a global power sometime in the late 1890s to early 1900s, our nation's armed forces have faced hostile fire all too regularly. The demands on those in uniform has increased substantially since World War II, and the dozen years that have passed since Sept. 11, 2001 have seen the country's longest uninterrupted span of active combat by U.S. military personnel.
As a result, we, both as a nation and as a community that shares a county with an Army post, are home to a lot of people who have faced hostile fire. Also, we are home to an ever-increasing community of families who have lost someone who died in the line of duty.
One of the many local reminders of these losses is Route 23 from Hickory to Jarrettsville, which on Oct. 20, 2006 was dedicated, thanks to the efforts of the Marine Corps League 1198 Harford County Detachment 1198, in recognition of Maryland's Gold Star Mothers.
Gold Star Mothers, for those fortunate enough not to have been touched by the loss of a member of the armed forces in the line of duty, are women who have lost a child to armed conflict in defense of the United States.
This weekend brings many a time honored tradition. Certainly many of us, including many who have served, will celebrate the unofficial start of summer by grilling burgers and hot dogs. The tradition of having this Monday as a day off for many people, however, relates to this being a time to honor the nation's war dead.
Formal ceremonies will be held throughout Harford County, and these events are well worth attending. Possibly a way every bit as meaningful to observe the solemnity of the holiday, however, would be to express a word or two of thanks to someone who has served, or is serving.
Technically it's a day to honor those who have given the last full measure of devotion, but realistically speaking, serving in the armed forces is a dangerous job and there's a lot to be said for saying "thanks for your service" to people when they're around to appreciate the sentiment.