Local Population Gives Year-Round Support For Troops
August 20, 2010
- "It's a commitment that the Huntsville/Madison County community makes to supporting Soldiers, families and the total Army family."
- "We've been fortunate that Redstone Arsenal leadership has had a great working relationship with our downtown community leaders."
- "There are so many military retirees in the Huntsville community that really support military efforts."
- More than 78,840 military retirees reside within an 80-mile radius of Redstone Arsenal.
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Sue Paddock often has to explain the difference between Army Family Covenant and Army Community Covenant.
Paddock, chief of the Army Community Service division, will tell you that the family covenant refers to ACS support for families.
The community covenant refers to what the community at large does for Soldiers.
"It's a commitment that the Huntsville/Madison County community makes to supporting Soldiers, families and the total Army family," Paddock said. "The Huntsville community is extremely supportive of our military servicemembers and our families. And we've been fortunate that our Arsenal leadership has had a great working relationship with our downtown community leaders. And they're able to share in many different events held both on and off post."
The patriotism displayed by the local population can at least partly be attributed to its demographics. More than 78,840 military retirees reside within an 80-mile radius of Redstone Arsenal.
"There are so many military retirees in the Huntsville community that really support military efforts it makes it a wonderful patriotic community," said Paddock, whose husband Joe is a retired colonel. "For example during Armed Forces Week there are so many different things to do in the Huntsville community. There's the Veterans Day Parade that is a huge community effort, including the dinner before the event and also the breakfast. But standing there and actually watching the parade and all of the people involved, whether they're part of the parade or on the sidelines, gives you a huge sense of pride."
During the holidays, ACS staff and volunteers packed 37 boxes of community-donated treats and personal hygiene items to ship to Soldiers in Afghanistan. Those boxes totaled 875 pounds and cost more than $1,200 to ship; and that was paid for by community donations.
The North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organization Coalition and the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army partner with ACS on many events to support the military throughout the year. One example is the Operation Christmas Bear event, a community-wide holiday party for all active duty, Reserves, National Guard and Defense Department civilians. They also help sponsor Blue Star Banner ceremonies.
Also during the holidays, many free tickets are available to military families for events such as the Nutcracker Ballet, and Santa's Village at the EarlyWorks Museum. During the year, local stores and eateries offer military discounts.
The community provided donations for military children to have book bags filled with school supplies, which were distributed during Rally Day at Bicentennial Chapel.
Examples of the strong supportive relationships that have been developed between Army Community Service and community resources include the American Red Cross and family services such as Crisis Services of North Alabama, the Department of Human Resources, National Children's Advocacy Center, and the Early Intervention programs. The Women, Infant and Children Program sends representatives to meet with military families on post every Wednesday at the ChildWise location, 1413 Nike St. Families should call ACS at 876-5397 for an appointment to see these representatives.
Other examples of community support include the Space Camp scholarship program in which community sponsors provide monetary donations to send military children to Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. This year's scholarship program had 12 winners and seven sponsors.
The annual Army Emergency Relief campaign receives an outpouring of support that extends beyond Redstone's gates. The Huntsville Havoc hockey team held a Military Appreciation Night; and after the game, they auctioned 15 jerseys which raised $23,200 for AER.
"Job fairs are an important part of supporting Soldiers and their families," Paddock said. "We had two this year. On March 2, our employment readiness program manager (Debra Jefferson) partnered with Transition Careers to hold a Redstone Arsenal Defense Technology and Intelligence Job Fair. And there were over 420 people in the community registered. And then on May 6, 41 military spouses attended a Military Spouse Job Fair.
"In addition to that, through the Army Family Covenant, an Army Spouse Employment Partnership Program was started to assist spouses in local communities with employment opportunities. And there are currently 23 companies in Huntsville participating."