Column – Military pride on full display in Savannah
Published 7:39 pm Thursday, August 11, 2022
We Hampton Roads residents take justifiable pride in the military presence here. We have an extraordinarily high percentage of veterans among our residents, as well as thousands of active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and marines.
Having lived in a military community all my life, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find its influence while traveling, but it was. On our way home from Florida recently, Anne and I decided to spend a couple of nights in Savannah, Georgia, a city, it seems, that most everyone we know has visited except us.
The decision was a good one. What a beautiful city. But the surprise came as we drove into town on Victory Parkway, and later encountered Harry S. Truman Parkway, crossing Eisenhower Drive along the way. Savannah, we quickly learned, is home to Hunter Army Airfield, a subsidiary of Fort Stewart, located about an hour’s drive to the southwest.
Savannah clearly takes its military connection seriously and with a great deal of pride. It’s not unusual to have multiple helicopters fly over the city while leaving or approaching the airfield, and with 5,000 service men and women stationed at Hunter, military uniforms are a routine sight on the streets of Savannah. For Hampton Roads residents, it’s a pleasant reminder of home.
But the second evening we were there, the military provided one of our visit’s most pleasant occurrences. Having eaten far too much excellent seafood in a riverfront restaurant, I walked several blocks back to a parking garage to retrieve the car and pick up Anne, who was shopping in a chocolate factory next to the restaurant.
As a group of people crossed a main thoroughfare together, we were met by an Army captain in dress blues. On his arm was his daughter, probably age 10 or 11, dressed like a fairy princess in a flowing evening gown, and smiling broadly. They were apparently headed for a formal father/daughter military event of some kind. After they passed, I commented to two young women walking next to me that it was one of the most pleasant sites I’d seen that day.
They agreed, and one of them said, “I hope that young girl can appreciate what she has” in her father.
A short distance later, I met a master sergeant, also in dress uniform, a chest full of ribbons. On his arm was his tiny daughter, probably 7 or 8, also dressed in full-length gown and with a huge smile on her face.
I never learned what event those young men and their daughters were attending, but their simple presence on the streets of that city left a glow in their wake on a warm summer evening.
Midnight in the Garden
With a trip to Savannah in the planning stage, I felt compelled to re-read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” If you are among the handful of people who have not visited Savannah or read the book, I found the two quite companionable.
John Berendt’s intriguing “who dunnit” has brought thousands of visitors to Savannah in search of the locals and locales he so graphically described.
Tour guides mention the book but don’t seem terribly interested in discussing it. That’s understandable. The fact-based novel paints a charming but somewhat decadent picture of the city. Savannah did, in fact, strike me as a place that has an abundance of mysteries and prides itself in holding them close.
That reticence was probably just as well. On the day we visited, the mercury hit 104 and we weren’t terribly interested in uncovering mysteries. With humidity just south of 100%, we found air-conditioned restaurants and shops were far more enticing than walks along narrow, shaded streets.
As the evening cooled, however, and a light breeze filled in off the Savannah River, a stroll was more welcome, and formally dressed military dads and daughters completed the picture quite pleasantly.
John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.