CUMBERLAND — Business leaders and military service members gathered Tuesday to recognize those who serve in the United States armed forces.

The Atlanta Regional Military Affairs Council Military Appreciation Luncheon, hosted by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, saw 280 people attend in person at the Cobb Galleria Centre, while others tuned in to watch it live on the chamber’s Facebook page.

The annual event featured keynote speaker Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations in the U.S. Space Force, which will finish its first year of existence next month. Thompson did not attend the event, but in a prerecorded message, he shared what the new service does, which includes protecting U.S. satellites and operating the Global Positioning Service (GPS). The service’s accomplishments in its first months include installing 2,500 members transferred from the U.S. Air Force.

“There’s tremendous energy, there’s tremendous interest and there’s tremendous opportunity here,” Thompson told event attendees. “Not just for us to build the service that we need to address the challenges, threats and opportunities that we face, but to reinspire many of the young Americans who in the past have been inspired by activities in space, cyberspace and other places, to come and join us and help us build what the nation needs to meet our national security interests, our national security concerns in space, today and far into the future.”

Thomas Carden, adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense, shared what Georgia National Guard members have been doing since the coronavirus pandemic started. Carden, who oversees the Georgia Army National Guard, Georgia Air National Guard and Georgia State Defense Force, said guard members have been responding to community needs to fight the pandemic. The pandemic response, he said, has included working with the state’s 790 long-term care facilities to protect about 60,000 residents. Guard members have also built alternative care facilities, set up teams in hospitals, taken samples for COVID-19 tests and worked in food banks.

Carden thanked the community for being flexible in response to the public health crisis.

“There’s some people that you’re going to spend time with this Thanksgiving that if not for what you did, were it not for the response from this community, they wouldn’t be there with you this year. While we all grieve a little bit about what’s happening in 2020, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for in this community,” he said.

May 29, guard members were called to respond to protests in Atlanta that had broken out into rioting, Carden said. He credited the guard with partnering with local police to restore peace to the area.

“Together we turned chaos and destruction into a peaceful expression of ideas that is, in fact, protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that we all swore to support and defend,” he said. “It really changed the temperature in a very short period of time and it really wasn’t about us. It was about reinforcing those people whose job it is every day to police those neighborhoods and keep people safe, and I’m just so thankful for what they do.”

Also at the event, the USO presented the USO Patriot of the Year Award to Steve Cannon, CEO of the AMB Group. Cannon leads all business operations of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United teams and the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, the developer that built Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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