Tuesday, June 27, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Recognition well deserved

As we reported Saturday, the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council has received the much-deserved 2017 Member of the Year Award from the Association of Defense Communities for supporting Little Rock Air Force Base for more than 60 years.

The Washington-based group recognized the community council’s work in behalf of the air base as unparalleled among the numerous military communities across the nation. We’ve known that for a long time, but it’s nice to win a national honor whose hundreds of members donate their time and energy to make the air base the national treasure it has been since it opened in 1955.

The council promoted the air base even before it opened. In 1953, Pulaski County residents formed a committee that bought 6,000 acres of land for $1.2 million (worth about $10 million today), which it donated to the Air Force for the base.

Since then, the council has supported many initiatives to ensure that the Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, a component of the Air Education and Training Command, along with the 189th Airlift Group with Air National Guard and the Reserves’ 913th Airlift Group, can carry out their operations and that those who work at the base feel welcome and cared for by the community.

Residents and businesses in Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood, Beebe, Little Rock and other communities surrounding the base have stood behind “Team Little Rock” as no other military community in the nation. That’s not bragging: Top Air Force officials have told us that for years, and we agree.

In September 2016, LRAFB and Team Little Rock hosted its first-ever military expo, which included all branches of service in the state, provided displays, demonstrations and performances, raising more than $10,000 in cash and contributions.

A community council subcommittee raised more than $70,000 in donations to support the air base’s 60th anniversary gala, which drew more than 800 military and civilian attendees, including 140 airmen who participated free of charge.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History hosts many memorials, ceremonies and other events to honor airmen and veterans.

Annabelle Davis and Barbara Merrick of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, which helped bring the base to Jacksonville in 1955, accepted the award in Washington this week.

Merrick, the council’s president, told The Leader, “I’m so grateful that Entergy allows me the time to work in support of the base, and not just my company, business, and industry leaders all around central Arkansas go the extra mile to care for the airmen here.”

“I think ADC also recognized how well the communities in the area join together to support our base,” Merrick continued. “It’s truly a team effort and a labor of love for all of us.”

Davis, who is the group’s executive secretary, told us, “We were thrilled at being selected as the 2017 ADC member of the year. This just confirms that all the community council and our members do to support LRAFB has been noticed and recognized on a national level.”

The Association of Defense Communities praised the council for its support of the base and its outreach program.

Thank you, Barbara Merrick, Annabelle Davis and the hundreds of community council members and supporters who have made this prestigious award possible. It is well deserved and much appreciated.

Again, thank you all for your service all these many years.