To write about what Fort Benning means to Columbus and me personally is a distinct honor. When I think about this great military installation and its 100 years in Columbus, I get emotional. It was my life from 1953 Citadel infantry cadet, then from 1957 until 1963 as a young infantry officer and then a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. My wife, Stacy, and daughter, Cathy, retired as teachers from Fort Benning.
Stacy and I really started our married journey at Fort Benning and Cathy and Rob were born at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. I’m not unmindful of the heroes I worked with and the ones who still come and go from this hallowed place.
These officers and men of yesteryear, both armor and infantry and then infantry only, and now men and women of armor, infantry and Rangers, are our first line of defense. They and others ensure that our great country will always survive and be free. They are our shield.
You will hear about the economic impact that Fort Benning has had on Columbus and the Valley. That is absolutely correct. This includes the billions spent to create Fort Benning and this infrastructure. You know of the millions spent every year in Columbus by soldiers, their families, retirees and through the contracts held by the installation. All of this pales when you look at what we, Columbusites, receive as we provide the support to soldiers and their families. We open our hearts, our homes, our religious institutions, our river and all of our other amenities to family members.
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We, in Columbus, have grown and prospered because we are a family. Leadership for many organizations has been provided by those retiring in our wonderful community. Even those in active duty give of their time to better our city by the work they do on many worthwhile projects. There is to my knowledge, no organization that does not have active and retired members of Fort Benning involved in some aspect of your daily lives.
Because of Fort Benning, we in Columbus, in large part, have learned over the years to appreciate those for other races, those of different ethnic origins and those from foreign countries — all working and living together in peace, in fellowship, in harmony, in respect. We have become an international city, aware of what partnership means.
When, looking for leadership, look all around you. You see them everywhere, sons and daughters of retirees, the Subers, the Hughleys, and the retirees, the Cavezzas, the Whites, the Pucketts, the Wojdakowskis, the Simpsons and on and on, leading our city in many ways. We would not be where we are today without Fort Benning.
I have said this once and will say it again: Fort Benning is Columbus and Columbus is Fort Benning.
Bob Poydasheff is a retired Army colonel and former JAG officer who later became mayor of Columbus.