By Carolyn EricksonJune 18, 2008
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Army News Service, June 18, 2008) - Senior commanders of the two military installations in Missouri signed a community covenant June 11 with Gov. Matt Blunt.
Maj. Gen. William McCoy, Maneuver Support Center and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, along with the Whiteman Air Force Base commander, signed the state-wide military community covenant with the governor in a ceremony near the Air Force base.
At the same ceremony, Gov. Blunt reinforced Missouri's commitment to taking care of military families by signing House Bill 1678 into law.
The bill establishes a grant/scholarship program for up to 25 spouses or children of Missouri veterans killed in action per year, where all tuition, books and housing are paid, up to the cost of a four-year education, at the University of Missouri.
The bill also establishes the Missouri Retuning Heroes' Education Act, where Missouri Veterans, who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, can enroll in an undergraduate program in a Missouri college for $50 per credit hour at a publicly-funded state college or university.
The bill, sponsored by Missouri State Representative David Day, also restricts a veteran's ability to modify a divorce decree while deployed out of state, and provides for employment assistance for the veteran and spouse following a deployment.
"One of my compacts when I was elected was to do whatever I could for active-duty military and veterans," Day said.
Day included the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children in House Bill 1678, which is the only part of the bill contingent on other states' agreements to abide by the compact.
The Interstate Compact will help in the transfer of school records, course sequencing, graduation requirements, exclusion from extracurricular activities, redundant or missed entrance/exit testing, kindergarten and first-grade entrance-age variations, and power of custodial parents while the other parent is deployed., according to the Council of State Governments Web site.
The compact will be effective and binding when the 10th state signs the compact into law, according to Day.
"There is a good chance we'll get it activated this year," Day said.
Eight states have currently adopted the bill, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
"This is a great piece of legislation that solves a lot of issues that have traditionally bugged families transferring into Missouri," McCoy said. "It also goes a long way toward putting teeth in the Community Covenant the state signed."
The Missouri Community Covenant is similar to the Army Community Covenant, but broadens the scope from strictly the Army to include all military services, both active-duty and the reserve components.
"The statewide covenant was a statement of Missouri's recognition of the service and sacrifice of its servicemembers and their families," McCoy said, "and the state's commitment to honor and support them."
The community plays a significant role in Army life, added Fort Leonard Wood's garrison commander, Col. John Megnia.
"The Soldiers get strength from their family," Megnia said. "Where do the families get their strength' The families get their strength from the community."
Not all military families live on post, making support from surrounding communities important, Megnia said.
"It just so happens that Fort Leonard Wood has been blessed with one of the most genuinely Soldier-friendly communities I've ever come across in my 30 years of service," Megnia said. "They are true patriots."