This magazine is read by heroes in the public and private sectors. Yes, I'd say anyone responsible for ensuring the quality and security of one of this nation's supply chains is a hero. That responsibility doesn't leave material handling managers like you much time to write letters to magazines, so on that rare occasion when one of you gets the time to send us a note, we like to share those words with our entire readership.

I've included the following letter to the editor in my editorial this month because the person who wrote it is a hero in several senses of the word. He put his life on the line in service to our country as a member of the U.S. Army's elite and brave fighting forces. First, an aside. By now you've noticed our new format. This issue is a prelude to the first chapter in a new volume for MHM. 2005 will be our 60th year covering material handling. The letter this soldier wrote says a lot about the discipline we cover and the profession you've chosen. It also sets the right tone for the beginning of a new year of MHM.

Now, here's that letter:

"I am reading with interest your first issue. I am in the process of returning to civilian life after several years of service in the Army, including two years of overseas combat duty. I have been interested in material handling and believe it provides a fine new field of endeavor. In the next few months I plan to investigate the possibilities, as well as my qualifications, of establishing myself in some branch of the business." —

W.L. Heitmiller, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Would you hire this man? Someone did. About 60 years ago.

His letter appeared in the "Letters to the Editor" section of Flow magazine in one of its first few issues. Flow is the name MHM was born with six decades ago. It was a good name, and still describes one of your major duties in 2005: To keep product and information flowing. This soldier recognized the importance of material handling to civilian life, and he signed up for duty right away, as soon as his contribution to ending World War II was completed.

There aren't many of Mr. Heitmiller's generation left. Today's generation is fighting a new war in Iraq, and material handling is playing a strategic role in helping our armed forces win it. If you've read this issue's cover story on the Wal-Mart/DoD RFID initiatives, you know the Department of Defense is investing taxpayer and human capital finding ways to deploy radio frequency identification in the battle field to achieve asset visibility.

Alan Estevez is one of the heros leading this campaign. He's the assistant deputy undersecretary of defense, responsible for supply chain integration under the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Estevez got his start as a logistics intern in 1981. This put his career miles ahead of that young Flow fan coming fresh out of WWII. What they both share, however, is the insight that material handling logistics is of strategic importance to their country's private and public sectors. Both came to the table with the necessary desire and the skills to make a difference.

I hope this magazine has helped you make a difference in your organization. With this issue, my tenure as its editor comes to an end. On the day MHM's previous editor, Bernie Knill, hired me as a young assistant editor almost 25 years ago, the art and science of material handling became my passion. If I've been able to instill a small measure of that passion in the hearts and minds of its readers over the years, then I accomplished what I was hired to do.

As you make hiring decisions over the next few years, remember the new generation of Heitmillers who may be among your applicants. They might have just the right stuff to inspire greatness in the other material handling troops under your command.

Tom Andel,
chief editor