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OUR OPINION: One of the greatest American defense communities

Hearty congratulations to Grand Forks for being recognized recently as a Great American Defense Community. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., offers his own congratulations in his column, and we join the congressman in celebrating Grand Forks' achievement.

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Hearty congratulations to Grand Forks for being recognized recently as a Great American Defense Community. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., offers his own congratulations in his column, and we join the congressman in celebrating Grand Forks' achievement.

That's especially true because Grand Forks, in effect, now is a Great American Defense Communities "plank owner," as the Navy and Coast Guard refer to the members of a ship's original crew.

Back in the Age of Sail, a plank owner would be given a piece of the ship's wooden decking upon the decommissioning of a vessel, years or even decades after the sailor's service on board. So, to be a plank owner was to carry a special status throughout the life of the ship at sea.

Likewise, this year is the first for the Association of Defense Communities' Great American Defense Communities award. Understand, the association has more than 200 members, and all of them are dues-paying communities, states or regions with a significant military presence.

Yet only 10 of the 200-plus members were recognized in the award's 2016 inaugural round.

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Grand Forks was one. That's exceptionally significant and shows how Grand Forks' support of Grand Forks Air Force Base stands out even among the association's elite membership.

In addition to congratulations, Grand Forks and its residents, leaders and institutions also have earned thanks, because the community never has taken Grand Forks Air Force Base for granted.

That matters-a lot. Because Grand Forks benefits from the base's presence at least as much as the base benefits from being near Grand Forks.

For in addition to serving their country (and at times, putting their own lives at risk in doing so), the airmen, civilians and families at the base also make Grand Forks a much more vibrant place. Of course that's true economically; the base's multimillion dollar payroll supports businesses and governments around the region.

But it's also true socially and culturally, thanks to the fact that the people at the base hail from all 50 states.

What a terrific infusion of regional accents, regional jokes, regional stories and other civic spices does the base add to Grand Forks. And as a result, how much richer is the all-American stew that is our community and that residents so much enjoy.

"Grand Forks embraces the mission, the airmen, and the families of Grand Forks Air Force Base, and it is rewriting the book on community relations with military installations," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in a statement about the award.

"Grand Forks also continues to provide the best traditional support possible for military families, ranging from special events for military families, tickets for sporting events, holiday programs and military appreciation days. It is only fitting that it is recognized as a Great American Defense Community."

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Agreed Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., "The collaboration between the military and private sector at Grand Sky is a point of pride, creating a model for what a 21st century air base should look like. It was a privilege to endorse Grand Forks for this recognition."

Congratulations again. The award is an achievement that should make Grand Forks residents proud.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Opinion by Thomas Dennis
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