Happy birthday, Navy

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, October 15, 2016

Much talk goes on at regional meetings about how heavily the Hampton Roads economy depends on defense spending.

With sequestration affecting the region the past few years, not only defense spending but also all federal spending has decreased, bringing a blow to the economy of this region.

The region includes about 150,000 active duty and civilian personnel of the Department of Defense. The military has 64 ships and 36 aircraft squadrons homeported in Hampton Roads. It is home to the largest naval base in the world and the only NATO command on U.S. soil. An estimated 45.6 percent of all regional economic activity is dependent on Department of Defense spending.

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Regional officials hope to diversify the region’s economy and become less dependent on the military, but that doesn’t mean the military is any less loved or important in this region.

Indeed, we are blessed to have the military here, and not just because of the jobs it supports. The patriotism and camaraderie we experience in this region are unmatched anywhere in America. And that was never more evident than at last week’s 241st birthday celebration for the Navy at the Naval Information Forces Command facility in North Suffolk.

More than 200 gathered for the celebration, many of them sailors. Mayor Linda T. Johnson and other city officials were also on hand.

Following tradition, the youngest and oldest sailors and a guest cut the cake. Johnson joined Rear Adm. Matthew Kohler and Seaman Samuel Callahan — who was reporting for his first day of work at just 19 years old — in cutting the cake with a cutlass.

We join the Navy in celebrating its 241st birthday and hope they spend many more years in Suffolk and in Hampton Roads.