Final Word

Having sent a son in uniform packing for Iraq 11 days before Christmas, I was heartened at the enthusiastic, supportive send-off he received from so many people at church and at our Monday morning meeting here at Randall Publishing. Almost everyone who shook his hand said that if he needed anything, just ask and they would send it. People are eager to help and quick to show it, and that, to use the old Army jargon, is a great force multiplier.

In the early stages of this war, the care packages were greatly needed. And while shortages of specific goods (like baby wipes) seem to be diminishing, the desire to support our troops seems to grow a little stronger every day. But other than care packages, what can you do to show your support?

I can’t speak for every soldier, but I think as a general rule the greatest motivator is the knowledge that the cause and the people they are defending are worth defending, that you share their values and that you put as much effort as they do into making our country, our communities and our businesses better and stronger.

This sort of work is every bit as important as the work our soldiers do. In World War II our stateside population organized itself into the most unified corps of civilians to ever back an Army in wartime. I don’t take anything away from the courage and sacrifice our soldiers overseas showed, but it was our fields and factories that put us over the top. Rosie the Riveter was the icon we remember from that era, but that apple-pie smile disguised a ferocious industrial capacity. History tells us that Hitler, insane as he was, knew and feared this strength, which, in the end crushed two of the biggest military powers to ever come against us.

There are some who have said America has lost that spirit. And in some quarters, that may be true. But one of the satisfactions of working for a magazine like Equipment World is that I get to write for and report on two groups of people who never lost that will to succeed – American contractors and the manufacturers who make and sell them equipment.

This particular issue of our magazine, our annual Innovations Award issue, is especially satisfying in that regard. The companies that fielded the six innovations we honor this year ranged from giant corporations with vast teams of engineers to a single, retired inventor armed with only a pencil and paper. What all these people have in common is that they wake up every morning eager to meet a challenge, to design a better machine, to help their friends, their companies and their customers succeed and grow. Most of them are smart enough to have made a killing on Wall Street, but wise enough to know there are greater things in life than money. In that they are no different from our soldiers.

Pure scientific talent is pretty equally spread across the developed world. What makes the U.S. stand out is that we have the people, the culture and the financial structures to move ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace. From the steam engine to the search engine, no nation even comes close in matching ability of Americans to turn knowledge into wealth, health and prosperity. That is our greatest strength as a nation and one of the best reasons I can think of to defend her.