A few weeks ago, I spent several days exploring Clarksville, Tennessee, to learn what made that town “tick” and what gave it its unique flavor and vibe. To be sure, Fort Campbell, which lies right on the Kentucky/Tennessee border, is a huge influence on Clarksville. Technically, it may have a Kentucky address, but from what I learned, most of the 105,000 acres are actually in Tennessee, and any babies born in the base hospital are issued Tennessee birth certificates.
In terms of base population, Fort Campbell is the second largest in the U.S. with a population of almost 235,000. Fort Bragg is larger with 238,000. Fort Campbell has the largest airfield of any military installation in the U.S. and the largest commissary in the Continental U.S. The base has 3 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and 1 large high school. In fact, every service you might need can be found within the confines of the base property — swimming pools, theaters, a bowling alley, a daycare center, shopping mall, hotel, a veterinary hospital, post office, and even a remote campus of Austin Peay State University with some great programs targeting Army wives.
Fort Campbell is the home of the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault and its “Screaming Eagles.” It is also the base for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Construction on the base was started just a few weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and many men and women who were sent from Fort Campbell have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
One of the largest and most heartbreaking losses occurred on December 12, 1985. After a deployment to Egypt on a peacekeeping mission, 246 service members and 8 members of the air crew crashed in Gander, Newfoundland, as they were returning home to their families for Christmas. Homes that had been decorated with lights, holiday trees laden with wrapped packages, and expectant, excited husbands, wives, sons and daughters were instantly forced to endure the worst reality of military commitment.
I toured Fort Campbell with a bright, articulate veteran whose family has been connected to the base for a couple of generations. I observed the comings and goings of our nation’s brightest and best. They, and those on ALL of our U.S. military bases, deserve our highest support, admiration and respect. And to those who have lost a loved one in defense of our country, I say thank you from the depths of my heart.
P.S. Civilians are allowed on the base to visit the Don F. Pratt Military Museum by showing your driver’s license.