By Robin S. BrownSeptember 16, 2008
Hundreds gathered Tuesday at the State Capitol to witness the Georgia Armed Forces Community Covenant signing ceremony - a public recommitment between the community and the Armed Forces in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The covenant is designed to develop and foster effective partnerships through improved quality of life for servicemembers and their Families, both at their current duty stations and as they transfer from state to state.
The event began as the Army Community Covenant, based on the Army charter signed by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren Sept. 19, 2007. Georgia's event added a unique flair from other ceremonies because it encompassed all of the Armed Forces in the surrounding community and was done at a state level as opposed to an installation level.
Among the five keynote speakers addressing the audience prior to the signing was Staff Sgt. Raymond D. Long, a beneficiary of Project SHARE, an initiative of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Long recently completed treatment at the Shepherd Center, which specializes in the medical treatment, research and rehabilitation of people with acquired brain injuries and other neurological conditions. Long suffered a traumatic brain injury during a mortar attack while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Also on the docket was Shelly Hall, who was widowed after the death of her husband, 2nd Lt. Kelly Hall, an Army aviator killed in 1998 during a training accident in Wiesbaden, Germany. Hall and her five children initially moved close to her family in Muskegon, Mich.; however, she missed living in a military community and moved to Columbus, home of Fort Benning.
"I absolutely loved being an Army wife," Hall told attendees in the crowded rotunda.
"I've been graced by [the military] community in so many ways. My kids say when we enter a base, we seem to breathe a different air."
Hall gave credit and thanks to God and the many agencies that support military families, saying, "We have survived the last 10 years because of our support system."
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Gen. Charles C. Campbell, commander, U.S. Army Forces Command, also addressed the audience. The signatories were: Perdue; Campbell; Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Rep. John Yates; Pete Wheeler, commissioner, Georgia Department of Veterans Affairs; Maj. Gen. William T. Nesbitt, the adjutant general of Georgia; Col. Deborah B. Grays, commander, U.S. Army Garrison; Col. Ben Braden, chief of staff, Marine Corps Logistics Command; Capt. Charles L. Mingonet Jr., commanding officer, Naval Air Station Atlanta; Col. Steven R. Clayton, commander, 94th Operations Group, Dobbins Air Reserve Base; Cmdr. Lonnie P. Harrison Jr., commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Savannah; Mike Garrett, president, Georgia Power Company and Mary Lou Austin, president, USO.
The ceremony recognized the community's best management practices, such as the Shepherd Center and the USO's support activities at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Not only did Georgia lead the way in this initiative in April, as recognized during the first ceremony held at Fort Benning, but it continued to show its support through ceremonies held at Fort Gordon June 13 and Fort Stewart July 11.
Prior to the start of the ceremony, music was provided by the Army Ground Forces Band Brass Quintet from Fort McPherson, as well as the second- and third-grade Hapeville Elementary School Chorus.
The invocation was led by Navy Chap. (Lt.) Kenneth Miller, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Life Scout Shawn Nelson, from Lithonia; Boy Scouts Jordan Dean, from Marietta, Nelson Whitney and Ben Whitney, both from Dallas, and Brownie Gabrielle Lockard, from Newnan.
The national anthem was sung by Chasity Hardman, Miss Georgia 2008.