FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Irwin Army Community Hospital initiated a milestone during Military Family Month by holding a covenant signing of two proclamations outside in the community garden near the facility Nov. 15. These proclamations lead to a new partnership that provides limited clinical care to veterans and their families as a result of the newest partnership between Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas and IACH.

The signatures from Col. John J. Melton, IACH commander; A. Rudy Klopfer, VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System director; and Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, honor the two proclamations. The first signing was of the "Commitment to Our Military Families" and the second proclamation was "Health Care Resource Sharing Agreement with VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System."

"However, what's more important than the ceremonial signing of this proclamation is the understanding of what this signature means," Klopfer said. "It means we improve upon a commitment of trust owed to our veterans and it means we further seal the promise of ensuring our veterans have every opportunity for continued, quality health care in the community they live."

The partnership between the VA and Fort Riley was initiated at the signing of the VA resource sharing agreement Aug. 17, but IACH began the resource sharing Nov. 15 as several clinics became open to VA participants.

"This agreement is a clear indication that we are listening," Klopfer said. "It not only optimizes IACH infrastructure and clinical resources, but plays a large role in satisfying our veteran beneficiary demand by placing 'more' health care exactly where they need it need and when they need it."

Klopfer said there are a lot of veterans in Junction City, Kansas, and Manhattan, Kansas.

The partnership between VA and IACH echoes the Army's saying of "Soldiers helping Soldiers."

"For me, the overarching theme, we are able to honor the sacred trust to take care of those who wear and wore the uniforms for their families," Melton said. "And veterans, they have worn the uniform. Just as Mr. Klopfer said, we are affording the veterans' choice."

Martin spoke to the crowd of distinguished guests, veterans and Fort Riley employees who gathered at the community garden for the proclamation signing.

"Thank you for being here today to celebrate this event," he said to the crowd of more than 100.

He thanked the two teams who arranged the proclamation signing.

"Col. Melton and Mr. Klopfer described the tangible impacts of these arrangements will have on making the lives our Soldiers and veterans better," Martin said. "I would like to take a moment to not only highlight not just what these impacts will be, but in my view, why they are so important."

Martin paused to look at the guests before continuing his remarks.

"I know the group here represents services of the different branches," he said. "For those of you who served in the Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard, I forgive you."

Martin chuckled along with the guests. After the joke, Martin thanked the men and women who served in all branches of service.

"When I talk about Soldiers, I am talking about you," he said. "I am talking about service members. I am talking about the families who sacrifice so much for their service member."

The "commitment to our military families" agreement echoes this call Martin and Melton spoke about, the importance of giving back to Soldiers and their families.

The proclamation's oath said it is a recommitment to ensure health care for service members and their families.

The agreement involved the Patient and Family Advisory Council Charter which is responsive to patient and family priorities, preferences and values.

The covenant provides "an effective mechanism for receiving and responding to patient and family input; to foster respectful partnerships between patients, families and health care professionals; to improve patient and family satisfaction within our system of care; to improve hospital quality and safety through collaboration and continuity of care and services; and to connect the hospital and its outlying clinics with the surrounding community."

The signing of the proclamation allows veterans to have medical treatment at IACH and nearby clinics like in Junction City in place of traveling to Topeka, Kansas, for treatment at the VA hospital and clinics.

"I fully understand that this agreement today is much larger than VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System or Irwin Army Community Hospital," Klopfer said. "Today with this proclamation, we place our ink, our handshake and our commitment to honorably and admirably stand firm to care for them (veterans), who have borne the battle."