Honor, with no resentment

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 27, 2013 08:51 am

We applaud the Baker City Airport Commission for making a difficult decision.

And, more importantly, the right decision.

Last week commissioners withdrew their recent request to the City Council to rename the city-owned airport from Heilner Field to Mabry J. Anders Field, to honor the 21-year-old Baker City soldier who was killed last August in Afghanistan.

The commission changed course after several local residents, including some city councilors, suggested that renaming the airport for Anders would either diminish the legacy of the late Joseph Heilner, for whom the airport was named, or would leave out the many other residents who, like Anders, sacrificed everything in the service of his country.

We’re certain the commissioners never intended to do either.

And indeed we believe that it’s possible to commemorate Anders without demeaning anyone else who is equally deserving.

But we also recognize that the commission’s proposal was certain to provoke emotional responses.

The airport has borne Heilner’s name for many decades, for one thing.

And for another, the issue of honoring members of the military killed in action is an intensely personal matter, so the likelihood is high that feelings will be hurt when a single soldier is slated for a particular honor, even when, as in Anders’ case, no such slight was intended.

The airport commission’s proposal to rename the airport for Anders was reasonable.

But of course that isn’t the only way to pay tribute to the man. We wholeheartedly support the new plan, which is to build a memorial to Anders at the airport through donations.

We urge the City Council to work with the commission and other supporters of the project to find a suitable place on the property for the memorial.

Ultimately, we hope this situation, rather than sowing a single seed of resentment, instead reminds us that we should never forget Anders and all those who died while trying to protect us.