WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 25, 2008) -- District of Columbia and Army leaders convened along the Washington waterfront Tuesday morning to sign the Army Community Covenant.

The Army was represented by leaders from the Fort Myer Military Community, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the D.C. National Guard.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton signed for D.C. , along with Councilwoman Muriel Bowser of Ward 4 and Councilman Tommy Wells of Ward 6. Nancy Lain, president of the Washington Waterfront Association, also participated in the ceremony.

The Odyssey, a luxury cruising vessel, was the site of the signing, which was attended by Soldiers and their families from around the D.C. area.

The signing was held in conjunction with the Southwest Washington Waterfront Association's annual Thanksgiving luncheon cruise for wounded warriors, veterans from the D.C. Armed Forces Retirement Home, service members and their families. While the wind was blowing and the water was choppy, ceremony attendees stayed both warm and stable onboard the Odyssey.

The Army Band "Pershing's Own" greeted guests as they arrived with a pre-ceremony concert, blending classical and patriotic tunes.

"The Army is founded on strength, and the Army is the strength of this nation," said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., commanding general, Military District of Washington. "This signing is about a commitment founded on that strength."

Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Houston of the Military District of Washington, and Lt. Col. Cameron A. Leiker, commander, FMMC Headquarters Command Battalion, went around personally greeting Soldiers and their families before the start of the festivities.

A choir from the District's Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, which the FMMC is paired with in the Partners in Education program, sang the National Anthem to open the ceremony. Staff Sgt. Matthew DeWaegeneer of the Old Guard, served as master of ceremonies.

"Washington, D.C., for more than two centuries, has had a special relationship with our armed forces," Councilman Wells said, "and I really appreciate the symbolism of this covenant, as it honors that relationship."

Leaders from Walter Reed acknowledged the role the D.C. community plays in helping families of wounded warriors heal.

"The support that [Walter Reed] has received from the D.C. community has always been tremendous, and it has never been more important than right now," said Col. Bruce E. Haselden, Walter Reed Army Medical Center garrison commander.

After the speeches, Army family members gathered with leaders to witness the signing of the covenant, which was greeted with applause. The crowd then joined together to sing the Army song and "God Bless America."

The Army Community Covenant is designed to help develop relationships with communities surrounding Army Installations in order to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and their families.

The FMMC covers two municipalities, Arlington County and Washington D.C. An earlier Community Covenant was signed with Arlington County at the Arlington County fair Aug. 7.

"The idea of supporting this covenant comes from across the spectrum, and it highlights our commitment as a community," Holmes Norton said.

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. Errol R Schwartz, was also present at the signing, along with Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commanding general, North Atlantic Region Medical Commandand; and Col. Laura J. Richardson, Fort Myer Military Community and Fort McNair garrison commander.

Almost 100 Army Community Covenant signings have taken place around the world, as part of the effort from Army Installations to be an active participant in the communities that support them.

"The community is so important in which we live to grow and flourish, whether we are here a short time, or several years," Richardson said.

(Alex McVeigh writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)