By John B. SnyderNovember 20, 2008
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (November 19, 2008) - "We are not a military community...but we are a community with military," said Albany Mayor Gerald D. Jennings today at a ceremony to reaffirm the capital districts' support and commitment to Soldiers, their families, to veterans, and to Department of the Army civilians.
Jennings hosted the first Army and Veterans Community Covenant signing to be held in the capital district at the Palace Theatre and he had lots of help. Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton, Troy Mayor Harry J. Tutunjian, and Watervliet Mayor Michael P. Manning joined with Jennings by not only co-hosting the event, but also with words of praise for the local military community. When the Albany county executive, Michael Breslin, heard about the event, he immediately added his name onto the speaker's list, too.
According to Jennings, when he heard about the Secretary of the Army's initiative for communities to reaffirm their commitment to Soldiers, their families, and to Department of the Army civilians he didn't hesitate to host this event.
"As I thought about our community today, images of yellow ribbons and signs proclaiming 'Support our Troops' came into my mind. We want to make sure that those yellow ribbons, some of which still hang in the Albany City Hall today, do not lose their significance or fail to have us reflect on the sacrifices that our Soldiers are making every day," Jennings said.
Stratton echoed Jennings' remarks and highlighted that while the ceremony was being conducted, there were more than 250,000 service men and women deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's important that we take every opportunity to reaffirm our support to the Soldiers, veterans, and to Army civilians. It's important that we sustain a community partnership with our military. And, it's important that we extend the covenant to everyone who has served in the capital district," said Stratton.
Tutunjian talked about the great pride the City of Troy has for its military.
"The people of Troy are very patriotic. It is therefore, very important for the City of Troy to reaffirm its commitment and support to the Army," said Tutunjian.
"After all, Samuel Wilson, known as Uncle Sam, is a symbol, just as today's covenant is, of Troy's patriotism and pride of its country," Tutunjian said.
On a maybe a more personal note, Manning talked about how the City of Watervliet and the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal have been as one for nearly 200 years.
"Watervliet is a smaller community but we are a family," said Manning when explaining the relationship his city of 10,000 residents has had with the Arsenal civilian workforce. "We are proud to host the Watervliet Arsenal in our city and we are making the relationship stronger every day through increased communications and improved working relationships," added Manning.
Breslin, a veteran of the Vietnam War, reminded the audience that Soldiers are still in combat and are coming back from serving abroad less-than-whole.
According to Breslin, the covenant signing is symbolic in that it represents the community's message that no one should forget about the sacrifices of the men and women who are serving their country. "We have an obligation as neighbors, friends, and as a community to support those who have sacrificed so much," said Breslin.
The Army Community Covenant was an initiative introduced earlier this year by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. His intent was for communities to develop and foster effective community partnerships with the Army in improving the quality of life for Soldiers, their families, and to Department of the Army civilians.
U.S. Army Col. Scott N. Fletcher, commander of the Watervliet Arsenal with nearly 800 Department of the Army civilians, believed the greater good for the community would be to expand the scope of the covenant signing by including the National Guard, U.S. Army Reserves, Albany Recruiting Battalion, and the Stratton Albany Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
Along with the mayors and Albany county executive, other signers included Mary-Ellen PichAfA, director of the Stratton Albany VAMC, Brig. Gen. Patrick Murphy, New York State National Guard, Col. Scott N. Fletcher, commander of the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal, Lt. Col. Kenneth Sullivan, commander of the U.S. Army Albany Recruiting Battalion, and Lt. Col. Andrew Ewanitz, commander of the U.S. Army Reserves 413th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
Approximately 125 Soldiers, veterans, Department of the Army civilians, and community leaders attended today's event.