We suspect the debate over the U.S. Air Force flying training missions in Maine is dominated by a vocal minority that is unwilling to occasionally part with a few seconds of silence.

The U.S. Air Force filed a draft environmental impact statement two weeks ago to base its new F-35A Lightning II jet fighters at the Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont.

If the Burlington base is selected instead of bases in Florida and South Carolina, training flights would be flown over Western Maine in an area that stretches from Coos County, N.H., across Western Maine and into Somerset County.

The Air Force says 95 percent of the flights would occur above 5,000 feet. A previous plan submitted for two other types of jet fighters would allow jets to sometimes drop to 500 feet. Meanwhile, the Air Force has been opposed at every step by local residents.

The necessity for such training is obvious. The lightly populated, mountainous terrain resembles areas in which these jet fighter pilots might find themselves delivering bombs and dodging heat-seeking missiles.

The pilots must practice for many hours to prepare for the exacting and dangerous missions they will one day accept — on our behalf.

Each year, tens of thousands of people flock to air shows around the country to see the best-trained pilots in the world display their skills.

The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels are the best of the best and thrill Americans of all ages.

We wouldn’t be surprised if many people in Western Maine felt both honored and inspired to have the mighty jets occasionally roar overhead.

As for scaring wildlife, we hope someone will explain to us why birds and other animals are such a problem at commercial airports if they are so frightened by jet engines. A long winter of snowmobile racket is at least as frightening and not nearly as important to our national defense.

There are dozens of military air bases spread across the U.S., many near large communities, where overflights are a daily and sometimes hourly occurrence.

One of those places is sunny Pensacola, Fla., where regular overflights seem to be well-tolerated by thousands of annual beach-goers and tourists. The same goes for Virginia Beach, another thriving tourist destination.

Finally, as we have pointed out many times in this column, 99 percent of Americans have been relatively unaffected by our extended wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We didn’t have to collect scrap metal, use ration coupons or plant Victory Gardens to help these war efforts. Our children have not faced an involuntary draft and relatively few of us have served.

Little has been asked of us, while the burden of war has been borne by a brave few.

Some have lived burrowed into mountainsides under daily attack or in forward operating bases with the endless drone of generators. Mothers and fathers, wives and children have lived in constant fear of a knock on the door.

And some of us can’t stand to have our silence occasionally broken to remind us of the cost of liberty?

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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