Aug. 1, 2008 -- For more than 250 years Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks have been community partners. On Aug. 1, the two formally recognized that relationship at an Army Community Covenant signing ceremony held on the Square in downtown Carlisle.
The ceremony became an opportunity for both military and civic leaders to celebrate the people and relationships that make Carlisle a welcoming community for military personnel and their families. "We're proud of the people who live here and we are equally proud of those of you who choose to serve this great country, especially now as we fight the global war on terror," said Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson. "What we are here to do is formally recognize what has occurred for more than 250 years. We are here to recognize this great partnership between Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks."
Wilson noted that 150 local members of Pennsylvania Army National Guard Stryker Brigade will soon deploy for training, and then to missions in Iraq, and reminded the community of the opportunities ahead to show support to both Pa. Guard military families as well as the military neighbors at Carlisle Barracks.
"The Army-Community Covenant is a commitment to building partnerships that support the strength, resilience and readiness of Soldiers and their families," he said. "The covenant recognizes the commitment that Soldiers and their families in our community are making every day ... that the strength of Soldiers comes from the strength of their families and, in turn ... the strength of families comes from the strength and support of this community."
Others who turned out for the important event echoed that sentiment.
"For those of you that live here, you know what a great place it is," said Pennsylvania Rep. Will Gabig, 199th District. "We live in a great country and this is a great community."
Gabig can directly relate to the servicemembers and their families, having been a self-described "Army brat" as a child.
"I can remember what it's like to move around every few years," he said. "I also remember shooting hoops in the Jim Thorpe Gym as a 12-year-old. Then, a few years ago, I was back in that same gym when the president addressed a previous class. It's amazing how full-circle things come."
Gabig went on to say that the support of the community was something important for these families.
"It's important to support the troops and I think that here we do that very well," he said.
Maj. Gen. Robert Williams, Army War College Commandant, thanked the audience of community members for their continued support.
"The support is tangible for something that is very important to us," Williams said. "We are about to sign a covenant, a promise, that we as a community recognize the importance of our Soldiers' commitment and the sacrifice of their families."
That is an important statement to all of us, said Williams about the military students newly arrived for the Army War College class, as well as for their families.
"Many of the students ...are coming right from war," he said. "They are expected to work hard but they also need to reset and recharge. You all can help and doing this tonight is something tangible and shows them you will do this.
"With us tonight are many fine officers of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and some exceptional federal civilians who have left demanding positions in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and many other places around the world. They look forward to a change of scenery. What they don't realize, yet, is what an ideal community this is for military members and their families. And, they will.
"They will come to love you and your community because you offer such profound respect and good will," said Williams.
"Tonight we are here to symbolically mark our commitment as a community to embrace each other and provide that sense of home that is so important to who we are as a country and what we stand for."
Gabig recognized two Wounded Warriors taking part in the ceremony and celebration, Army veteran Manny Pena, and Air Force veteran Matt Fritz.
"I want to welcome you and thank you for your service to our country," said Gabig.
The importance of the military-community partnership was highlighted recently by Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army.
"Every Soldier in this Army is a volunteer. Family members are volunteers too. An all-volunteer force. And we are in unchartered waters when it comes to fighting an extended conflict with an all-volunteer force," he said at Fort Benning, Ga., April 17. "That's why it's so important for communities to step up ... love their Soldiers and love their families, and embrace them."
The covenant signing ceremony highlighted the Carlisle community's welcome to new Soldiers and the students and families of the Army War College Class of 2009. A Mix and Mingle cook-out was sponsored by the Carlisle Regional Medical Center, and hosted by the Cumberland County Historical Society.
"I've never seen a community go so far for the military," said Dave Moreland, new USAWC student. Moreland was previously stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
His wife, Brenda, said she looks forward to a year when her husband won't be deployed and they can enjoy this year here together.
"I think the Welcome Jam is tremendous, how the community reaches out to the school and makes you feel welcome."
As the community dignitaries signed the covenant, The Volunteers, the Army's touring show band, was poised to entertain the crowd that had begun to gather as early at 5 p.m. for the concert, sponsored by the Downtown Carlisle Association. They weren't disappointed.
"It's been a great concert," said Mary Page, a 20-year Carlisle resident who arrived at 5:30 p.m to get a good seat.
"I wanted to get here early, and I'm glad I did since it filled up so quickly," she said. "I was here last year and really enjoyed the concert and I'll be back next year if they do this again."