The San Francisco Bay Area has a long association with the armed forces. The Bay Area has hosted the military — or rather someone’s military — in war and peace for more than 200 years. From the founding of the Spanish fort at the Presidio in 1776 to the dotting of the Bay Area landscape with missile silos during the Cold War, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a continuous military presence for more than two hundred years.
All that is changing. As someone born and raised in San Francisco, I’ve watched as one by one, military bases throughout the Bay Area have closed. The Presidio Army Base, Alameda Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, Fort Mason, Fort Funston, and most recently the Oakland Army Base have all closed down and the overall military presence has been sharply curtailed. It is, as many know, exceptionally rare to see a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman on the streets of San Francisco. The U.S. military sustained more than 2,000 deaths in the Iraq war before the first soldier from the Bay Area was killed. The Bay Area and the military are drifting apart, and if the trend continues both will be poorer for it.
Next week is Fleet Week 2010, the annual visit by the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps to San Francisco. Begun in the 1980s by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein, Fleet Week is a week of liberty and freedom or tours and exhibits, depending on which side of the ship’s rail you stand on. And with the mass downsizing of the military presence here, it’s a good way to remind the people of the Bay Area that the military is still out there. And vice-versa.