Columbia County gets a quick reminder on the importance of the military to our community at times like these. When our nation begins to prepare for war, activity not only increases at Fort Gordon, but our citizens in the reserves start to get their activation notices and one by one begin shipping out.
Probably among he more high-profile departures is Assistant District Attorney Bobby Christine, called up for reserve duty with a unit that specializes in opening the way on battlefields for other soldiers.
"We expect millions of mines that we'll have to clear," Christine said last week while waiting on a plane that will take him to an undisclosed - but easy to guess - destination.
Christine leaves behind a wife and two kids wholl be worried about him until his return, and a community that has valued his expertise as a prosecutor. But hes not the only one leaving town: a handful of Columbia County school system employees at various levels also have been called to active duty, and have left their positions in the schools to serve their country.
That service sometimes creates hardship; reservists' families can feel the pinch when a breadwinner leaves his or her civilian job for military service.
It's a tribute, then, to pure patriotism that the Columbia County Board of Education is stepping in the fill the gap.
Trustees this past week approved a policy that will make up the salary difference when educators are called to duty. "We dont feel a person called to duty should receive a loss in pay," says Superintendent Tommy Price, so we are willing to pay the difference between their net military pay and their net school system pay, provided the military pay is less, for up to 24 consecutive months.
It does help that, thus far, most reservists called up in Columbia County carry a high enough rank that their military pay exceeds what they make as educators - not surprising, when school pay is generally considered barely adequate. It certainly helps take taxpayers off the hook for big differentials, while allowing citizens to make a firm gesture of support to our troops.
Though its been blown out of proportion, we've heard a lot in recent days about some public school systems whose employees have targeted anti-American propaganda at the children of servicemen and women. Its heartening to see Columbia County, a rock-solid Fort Gordon community, instead doing its part to support our troops and their families.
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