Hey USA: Getting Grounded with Air Shows & Military Bases

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Earlier today, a day that I’ve read would fall under the “meteorological perfection” category, I spent a very pleasant 90 or so minutes circumnavigating Lake Glenview.  Actually, I made the trek on foot along a nature path that takes one through native wildflowers and grasses planted around this 45-acre man-made lake in a suburb just north of Chicago.

The lake and surrounding park sits on land that once was operated by the the U.S. government as the Naval Air Station Glenview, a training base for the Navy and Coast Guard.  In 1995, the land was redeveloped into housing, a senior retirement center (where my mom lives), offices, a very nice and successful lifestyle retail center and, as noted, a lot of open park and recreational space.

As a public relations professional, I’ve concentrated my work in the real estate arena.  I’ve provided counsel to developers, brokers, property managers, architects and mortgage originators over the past two decades.  In my humble opinion, the developers of the old naval air base did it right.

Back to the focus of today’s post.  The naval base at Glenview also was the staging location for the very popular Chicago Air and Water Show, which ran yesterday and today along the lakefront.  Millions flock to the Lake Michigan Shores to witness our military might (and some other way cool air-sea performances) as demonstrated by fighter jets and other aircraft.  In the days leading up the show, millions scan the skies around downtown when hearing the near-deafening sound of jet engines on practice runs.

To many, the Chicago air show — the largest of its kind in the nation — is a big waste .  It’s a waste of money, a waste of energy and a waste of what could be a quiet weekend afternoon.  Detractors also maintain this kind of showmanship really is not necessary to demonstration our military capabilities.

Not sure who’s handling public relations for the air show (put on by the City of Chicago and sponsored by Shell Oil), but I reckon the threats noted above will return next year, along with the crowds.

Back at the park surrounding Lake Glenview, I came across a modest, but compelling, memorial to those who serve in our armed forces.  Here are a few images:

The monument includes this sculpture of an airman consoling the son of a fallen comrade.

The flags of our military branches flutter in the breeze.

This bronze plaque is placed at the entrance to the memorial.

From the far end of Lake Glenview, you can see the old naval base tower, which was incorporated into the retail development.

The government decided to sell off the land that housed the air base when it was no longer deemed necessary for military use.  The village of Glenview, which acted as developer, showed a lot of foresight in bringing business and revenue to this very valuable tract of land, yet preserving open space and a some military history of the air base.

Those who blast the need for a two-day demonstration of jet fighters, really fast boats and precision parachute jumpers have a solid perspective.  So, perhaps it’s time to rethink the Chicago Air and Water Show.  Perhaps it’s time for a one-day show, or one show every other year. Maybe we incorporate some informational seminars on history or energy conservation.  Just don’t pull the proverbial plug without some dialogue.

What’s made this country truly great is our ability to have the freedom to think big.  We have big events that draws millions; we take former military sites and transform them.  Our military — embodied by the men and women who put their lives on the line for us — give us the freedom to think big.

One more thought: The little memorial in the park surrounding Lake Glenview is called Freedom Memorial.

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