Out and About (Sort of): Sundry Comments on a Range of Subjects by Howard Freedlander

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More than a week ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a reunion of Vietnam veterans trained as officers in 1967 at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. One of the men was Paul Berents, an Easton resident whom I wish I knew.

Of the 516 members of the basic officers who graduated in class 5-67, 39 were killed in combat. Like the faces of most war victims, those pictured in the Post article are young men facing deadly conditions in an unpopular war brought home as never before in images broadcast on TV.

Now 72, Paul Berents lost both legs to amputation after action in which a new Marine shot Lt. Berents after mistaking him for an enemy soldier. It was Dec. 7, 1967. Berents had been in country for 10 weeks.

The article about the upcoming 50th reunion of class 5-67, focusing on Berents and two other former Marine lieutenants, brought home for me a war that killed or maimed many in my generation, leaving lasting and painful emotional scars on survivors.

The Vietnam War divided our country. Our troops returned stateside to a nation that treated them poorly and disgracefully.

Our country learned a few things from the Vietnam War. One lesson learned was to commit maximum force to achieve combat victory, as we did in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Another was to ensure that participation in a foreign war draws its strength from the national will, without which it’s difficult, if not impossible to win. And, unquestionably, the nation wholeheartedly should support its troops; anger against the reasons for, and execution of war should be directed at our political leaders—not the men and women who fight our wars.

I would like to meet Paul Berents to thank and commend him for his service in the Vietnam War. He suffered severe wounds. He served well.

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Congratulations to Pete Lesher, my friend and neighbor who last week was re-elected as Easton Town Councilman for Ward 2. He and two others, Megan Cook (Ward 4) and John Ford (Council President), ran unopposed.

Though the results were less than dramatic, I believe that those who serve on the local town or city level deserve public kudos. They not only have to deal with potholes and neighborhood disputes, they must tackle complex policy challenges, such as land use and economic development, issues that have long-term compact.

Time will come in the next few years when the Town of Easton will have to face what to do with the property vacated by the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton when it moves to a site near the airport. As a neighbor in South Easton, I am very concerned about the “repurposing” of this property. The Easton Town Council will confront complex land use decisions, ones that will have a marked impact on the Washington Street corridor and adjoining community.

I hope and believe that the Town Council already has determined a process involving input not only from the community but experts who have dealt with vacated hospital properties in and out of Maryland to fix upon a rational and productive use of what most of us know as Memorial Hospital. Decisions will have far-reaching consequences.

A sterling example of sound land use decisions is just down Route 50 in Annapolis. The question was the same: what to do with the property vacated by Anne Arundel Medical Center. I believe the resulting residential development blends beautifully with the Murray Hill community. While the center of Annapolis lost its hospital, it gained sensible, well-planned development.

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One last comment: I was pleased that the spending bill approved a week ago in a bipartisan manner by Congress included $75 million for the continued clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. We can only hope that the Trump Administration would consider this funding inviolate in future budget proposals.

The idea that the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed could afford to manage alone the health of this national gem would be akin to believing crabs could fly. I pray for good sense to prevail in the White House and Congress.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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