Friday, December 27, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Our choice for VA home

Why should Cissy Rucker, director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, pick Jacksonville for the site of the proposed $22 million veterans’ home?

No one has put it better than Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, who succinctly said, “It’s the perfect fit.”

It’s the perfect fit because of the people, and that doesn’t always come through in portfolios, presentations and paper packages. For more than 60 years, the people of Jacksonville have shown that they love the military.

It started in 1954 with the city leaders joining together to donate the land for Little Rock Air Force Base. In recent years, residents voted in support of a tax so the city could contribute $5 million for a state-of-the-art joint education center for airmen and civilians — the only one of its kind in existence.

Rucker and her staff should take a close look at the two proposed sites for the new veterans home — one outside the air base and another on Military Road — and make a decision soon.

The city has won the Abilene Trophy twice in four years for its outstanding relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base. Jacksonville is a military town, and the veterans’ home belongs here.

Look at the number of times the city and state have worked together to come up with ways to let traffic flow better in and out of the base, and just look at the entrances to the base. You don’t see liquor stores, businesses that rip off military members or peep shows — like the ones other cities have near their military bases.

But there is a shopping area close by that is convenient for base members. Tree-lined Vandendenberg Boulevard is a site to behold, and the city has worked hard through ordinances and zoning to help keep it that way.

Look anywhere, talk to anyone and the answer will be the same: Jacksonville loves its military — active duty, veterans, retirees and those in need, like the people who will live in the veterans’ home.

The mayor is right. Without a doubt, Jacksonville is the perfect fit, and the whole city is hoping the state’s Veterans Affairs Department agrees.

Arkansas veterans will be the winners if Jacksonville is the department’s final choice.