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The Journal Gazette

  • Banks

Monday, September 11, 2017 1:00 am

We take today to salute those keeping us safe

Jim Banks

Republican Jim Banks represents Indiana's 3rd District in the U.S. House.

On the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we think of the innocent victims, the families they left behind, the courage of our first responders and all those who have sacrificed for our country.

Since that fateful September day, thousands of Hoosiers have volunteered to serve – both in uniform and out – in defense of our freedom. These men and women often serve away from the spotlight for the betterment of our communities, state and country. This legacy of Hoosiers answering the call is something we should all be exceptionally grateful for and celebrate.

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of United States Central Command, once remarked that those serving should “never confuse their proximity to the target with their importance to the mission.” After visiting military installations and defense industry partners around Indiana in August, I believe Gen. Votel's comment sums up the important role Hoosiers across our state play in keeping the country safe.

Indiana's robust system of military installations, universities, industry partners and the nation's fourth-largest National Guard collaborate on sophisticated projects and from what I like to call our Hoosier “Arsenal of Democracy.” Working together, Hoosiers are serving and tackling the most acute challenges facing our nation, often with little fanfare and few headlines.

For example, the engineering work being done at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in southwest Indiana supports electronic warfare, missile systems and cyber programs, many of which are then tested at the unique training facility hosted by the Indiana National Guard at Atterbury-Muscatatuck in southeast Indiana. On a recent visit to Grissom Air Reserve Base near Kokomo, I saw A-10s from the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne conducting training on the base, and one of Grissom's KC-135 tanker aircraft had just landed after refueling other of the Blacksnakes' A-10s.

This collaborative approach not only capitalizes on the resources available in our own backyard, it also serves as a proactive measure to prevent base closures. As Congress considers another round of Base Realignment and Closures, the collective energy of Hoosiers positions our state not only to withstand cuts but to grow if another round of closures occurs.

Beyond our military installations, another great resource in our state is the university system. People from around the world travel to Indiana for its higher education institutions, and I continue to hear examples of the Hoosier spirit, which elevates service over self, motivating the decision of students to remain here after graduation. We must do even more to keep this talent in our state.

As we've seen since 9/11, Hoosiers understand that our freedoms are not a birthright but something that must be earned by each generation. On this day of remembrance, we are especially grateful to the more than 200 Hoosiers who gave their last full measure of devotion in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the midst of a divisive time in Washington, reflecting on those who serve in defense of our rights and liberties is a reminder Americans have far more to unite us than divide us.

We will never forget.