I had the great — and solemn — honor of chairing the citizens group which erected the first 9-11 memorial in the city — the “Beacon Memorial” on Veterans Memorial Pier at 69th Street, which faces lower Manhattan. It reads: “Brooklyn Remembers … For Those Lost on September 11, 2001.” I pray, and would prefer, not to have to do that again.
For that reason, the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee is committed to keeping Fort Hamilton — the only active military base in our city — as a viable military installation. Yes, that’s right, the only one in a city primarily targeted by terrorists.
Recognized as an official military installation in 1839, the Fort’s site dates from July 4, 1776, as an optimal military location — an American gun battery symbolically fired on a British warship steaming through the Narrows. From then to the War of 1812, to the Civil War, to two World Wars and to today’s unconventional warfare, Fort Hamilton consistently has demonstrated its military worth in advancing the interests of America and its citizens by adapting its strategy, not by forfeiting its core mission — military preparedness. The Fort’s capacity to reinvent itself to meet current and potential threats is no less viable today than it was over 170 years ago.
The Citizens Committee recognizes the fiscal issues currently facing our country and the consequences of ignoring them. So too, the committee sees the incredible results of the positive efforts of our noble military personnel, both oversees and at home, that ease, not add to, our financial woes. No wonder the cover story of this week’s Time proclaimed them “The Next Greatest Generation,” concluding with, “[T]hey’re very disciplined, and really … serious about their work.” Our brave men and women have transformed their military training and leadership skills into constructive programs for disaster victims, for returning vets and for youngsters in need of guidance and direction. At Fort Hamilton, the evolving military mission and that constant capacity to adapt, evidenced by matching military expertise with community needs, already exists.
Fort Hamilton must remain a military installation. If you doubt that, ask Homeland Security, ask the FBI, ask the National Guard and Army Reserve, ask NYPD and FDNY, ask the Coast Guard, ask 40,000 veterans and ask average citizens. They all use — and need — Fort Hamilton. The Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee is committed to that goal.
William R. Guarinello is president of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee.