Armory was more than a building

Published 3:28 pm Friday, June 8, 2012

Tuesday was a bit of an emotional day at the Linden City Council meeting. Sixteen members of the 440th were in attendance as the council presented a proclamation to bid farewell to a National Guard presence it has had since the 1950s.

Linden knew this day was coming. The city found out back in November when it was announced that Fort Hill-McManus-Boggs would be one of 13 armories closing within a year as part of a cost-cutting venture.

Still, Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates and a handful of supporters and enthusiasts fought the decision. They appealed to just about anyone who would listen as they tried to extend the stay of their friends in the 440th.

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They did so because the National Guard’s presence has meant something to Linden. It has meant dollars as the unit’s members have filled up their gas tanks and eaten at the local restaurants during their visits to the community. More than anything, it has meant tradition to Linden.

The members of the 440th recognized and appreciated that. That is why Lt. Colonel Randall Brown called Linden the epitome of the Guard’s citizen-soldier paradigm.

As Gates dried her tears brought on by her reading of the proclamation, each of the 16 soldiers in attendance took the time to tout Linden for its welcoming nature.

One man was from North Carolina. He said it was always worth the 16-hour drive to Linden. Some had been based out of the Linden armory for well over a decade. And two in attendance were Linden High School alums who had Gates as their English teacher.

It was a touching scene witnessed by a relatively small collection of people. But it was noteworthy in its own right.

Such mutual respect is not often on display in so open of a manner. And while it is just a building and just a necessary cost-cutting measure to some, to those in Linden who cared about being the unit’s home and to those of the 440th who will now relocate to Selma, it mattered.

More than anything else, it mattered because it yet another manifestation of the times and how they are a changin’.