Harker Heights used to be little more than a bedroom community with a few rowdy bars at the far end of Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
Now, Heights is arguably the nicest place to live within a stone’s throw of Fort Hood. When I was stationed at Fort Hood some 20 years ago, there were hardly any businesses east of the Killeen Mall on U.S. Highway 190.
These days, tasty restaurants and big stores line 190 in a sea of retail from Killeen’s western boundary to the eastern limit of Heights.
The two cities are practically joined at the hip; it’s hard to imagine one without the other. If Killeen is the big brother, then Heights is the younger brother. And Heights is all grown up.
Where am I going with all of this?
Heights and Killeen are essentially the gateway to Fort Hood, and we need a sign that says it.
Leaders in Heights are scratching their heads trying to find the best way to plan out Knight’s Way (also known as Farm-to-Market 2410). That’s the big, wide street that is pretty much the main corridor of Heights (not counting 190).
FM 2410 crosses 190 on an overpass in the middle of Harker Heights’ economic power hub. There are coffee shops, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants and the city’s crown jewel — Market Heights.
That overpass is the ideal location for a gateway.
Yes, Heights and Killeen are all grown up now. But they are still the children of Fort Hood. And if the umbilical cord of Fort Hood ever gets cut, Killeen and Heights will be in big, big trouble.
A gateway is only suitable to cement that relationship and pay homage to what Fort Hood means to Heights and Killeen.
Work is already being done on that overpass to account for growing traffic. A turnaround was added to one side of it last year, and crews are in the process of adding more lanes.
But why stop at mere functionality? Think of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
OK, those don’t have much function, but they are grand to look at. Perhaps an elegant sign on the overpass would work, or some kind of military-style sculpture built onto or in front of the overpass. Thousands of people go under that overpass every day, and thousands of new soldiers heading to Fort Hood for the first time go under it as well.
It’s only right to give them a warm, memorable welcome.
Choosing a name would be the simple part: The Gateway to Freedom.