On the day I write this, my colleague’s husband – along with many other husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters – is leaving on a deployment. It reminds me of the recent LEAD San Diego IMPACT seminar in which the cohort learned about the military’s impact in San Diego, home to the largest concentration of military personnel in the world. For the men and women in the armed forces and their families, they know the impact of the military well. For the rest of us, hearing from service men and women, taking a tour of the Naval Base San Diego, and visiting the Naval Medical Center, the LEAD session was a good reminder.
As part of the experience, the IMPACT group also toured the USS Howard, where we were greeted by several sailors who took us on a ship tour. I was struck by how young our guide looked and thought about my own brother, who is now 15 years old and considering entering the military; it was a thought I kept with me throughout the day.
The most poignant moments came at the Naval Medical Center, where we heard from the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), and service men and women from the center. SDMAC told us the facts: the military’s presence in San Diego is responsible for $30.5 billion in economic output, $16.3 billion in household earnings, and 354,627 jobs, or about one out of every four jobs in San Diego. We then heard about the work done at the medical center and saw a simulation video that moved us all.
It was a training video used to prepare military medical personnel for what they may see in combat. Designed to mirror real life situations, the explosions, injuries and operations were so life like that the video was stopped to make sure everyone in the class was comfortable watching it. Even knowing it was not real, it was hard to sit through.
“When people come back, they are changed. They see things most of us will never see,” said Commander Langlais, who discussed her own experiences serving. The cohort talked about the increasing instances of post-traumatic stress, and how the military is helping men and women cope.
Watching the video, I thought about what it must be like to witness the tragedies of combat in real life. I thought about what this sacrifice means not only to the individuals who serve, but to their friends, families, communities and to us all as Americans. We owe our service men and women a huge debt of gratitude. Langlais summed up well the lesson for the LEAD cohort and those in the San Diego community.
“We expect a lot of them out there, so they should expect a lot of us back here,” said Langlais.
To those not in the armed forces, let us remember the important work of our service men and women and their contributions to the fabric that makes up San Diego. Thank you to all those who serve for your important work on duty and off for our country and for our community.