Recently, I had the honor of serving as the Master of Ceremonies for the Vietnam Wall Experience during its stay in Memphis. Over the course of the weekend, I presided over a POW/MIA remembrance service. This moving ceremony involved the placing of hats from all branches of the military on a specially prepared table set with very symbolic items. These hats represented the heroes from each branch of the military that were prisoners of war or who remain missing in action.
As I sat through this observance, I couldn't help but reflect upon the September 11th attack on our nation. I thought of the men and women who responded so bravely to that assault. Although the POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony is a military ceremony, you can now add two new hats to future
remembrance services. These hats belong to the brave men and women of our police and fire departments.
On September 11th, we saw that no longer is our armed forces America's only line of defense against aggression. We now must add the men and women of every police and fire department in our country. Now, they serve on the front lines with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard
protecting our freedom and safety. Our police and fire departments, like our military, must be prepared to respond to our enemy's attacks at their chosen time.
The assault on America will require Congress and the President to rethink national defense s rategies. Congress must spend resources in a manner consistent with the realities of the 21st century. We should be prepared to fight rogue nations and terrorist groups not only large foreign armies. We ought to develop a lighter, leaner military that is capable of a quick
strike and rapid response to crisis. Our military, police and fire departments must prepare to combat chemical and biological warfare. Congress spends millions of dollars on anti-terrorism efforts each year. Unfortunately, those dollars have been directed primarily toward federal agencies that typically respond in six hours or more, not the local police and fire departments that response to disasters in six minutes or less.
Since the battlefields of past wars have been fought on far away continents, local governments in the United States have had no reason to be involved in matters of national security. The events of September 11th have changed that perpetually. In the future, federal and local government must work in concert to avert attacks. Our police and fire departments must be every bit as successful safeguarding Americans from attack at home as our nation's military has been at protecting us from aggression abroad.
Since the attack, we have heard much about the "Twin Towers" that evil doers brought down in New York City. A new set of "Twin Towers" has been erected that no enemy will ever destroy - those are the "Twin Towers" of American police and fire departments.
President George W. Bush recently announced that our military should prepare to retaliate for the terrorist attacks. He told the men and women of the armed services, "get ready, you hour will come, and we know you will make us proud."
I say to our police and firefighters, "your hour may come once more, and if it does, I know you will make us proud again!"
(Brent Taylor is a member of the Memphis City Council.)