By Mr. Patrick Buffett (IMCOM)November 26, 2008
HAMPTON, Va. - "We, the community, recognize the commitment Active, Guard and Reserve Soldiers and their Families are making every day."
"We, the community, are committed to building partnerships that support the strength, resilience and readiness of Soldiers and their Families."
Those are passages from the Army Community Covenant that was signed by Fort Monroe and City of Hampton representatives during a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Rupert Sargent building downtown. About 100 invited guests attended the event. They included Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward, Hampton Vice Mayor Joseph H. Spencer II, Gen. William S. Wallace, the Commanding General of TRADOC, Brig. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Deputy Commanding General of the Virginia Army National Guard, and other high-ranking officials.
The goal of the covenant is to "encourage the development and continued support of effective state and municipal partnerships with the Army to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families, both at their current duty stations and as they transfer from state to state," explained Bruce Sturk, Hampton's Director of Federal Facilities Support, in his introductory remarks at the ceremony.
Covenant signing events have been ongoing since April in cities and towns that neighbor military installations across the nation and overseas. Army leaders are stressing the importance of these localized events, saying they provide an opportunity for community leaders to recognize their relationship with nearby installations and acknowledge their role in caring for military families.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren had this to say about the covenant during a recent speech at Fort Benning, Ga.: "(More than) half of our Soldiers today are married ... that's more than 500,000 spouses. And in those Families there are over 700,000 children.
"When a (married) Soldier deploys, he or she leaves behind a single parent household and all the challenges associated with that family dynamic. When a single parent deploys, he or she leaves those children in the care of others. And that's why it's so important for neighbors to help neighbors, to step up and help through those tough times. It might be raking leaves in the fall (or) shoveling snow in the winter. It might be babysitting. It might be loaning a car. It might be fixing a car. Neighbors helping neighbors is so important as we continue in this war that we find ourselves in as a country."
In her remarks during the Hampton ceremony, Mayor Ward said: "We have always recognized, and we're recognizing today, that our Army personnel are an integral part of our community. They participate in our PTAs, neighborhood associations and our charitable causes. They take part in our community events, seminars, concerts and celebrations. This covenant establishes our commitment to partnerships that support Soldiers and their Families, and our promise to provide a high quality of life and an environment where they can thrive."
"November is a very appropriate time for this event," noted Fort Monroe Garrison Commander, Col. Anthony D. Reyes, in his address to the ceremony attendees. "This month not only includes Veterans Day, but also Military Family Week and Thanksgiving. We are thankful to live in a great country, a great state and, in Fort Monroe's case, to be part of a great community ... Hampton.
"My hope is that the spirit of this initiative is an enduring one," Reyes also stated, "and that today marks both the continuation of the strong ties that are already established as well as a new commitment to the important work that must be done to support our troops."
The remarks were followed by the symbolic signing of the covenant. In addition to Ward, Spencer, Wallace, Batts and Reyes, the signatories included: Fort Monroe Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Leroy James; Capt. Joseph Lavalle-Rivera, Headquarters Company Commander, and his wife Jennifer; Sgt. Peter Bierbaum of the 233rd Military Police Detachment and his wife Lisa; and Sgt. Norma Fernandez-Schultz of the U.S. Army TRADOC Band and her husband Spc. Theodore Schultz who is assigned to Fort Lee.
There are many examples of the wide-ranging support and services Hampton-area businesses, schools and other community groups provide for military families residing in this area. The downtown Virginia Air and Space Center and the American Theatre in Phoebus are among the recreational facilities that offer discount admission to service members. About 4,700 military children attend Hampton's public schools. As in previous years, local hotels are offering free rooms for the visiting family members of junior enlisted members this holiday season. Those are in addition to the many public outreach and personal enrichment programs offered year-round.
The community covenant builds on the promises of the Army Family Covenant that was the focus of a formal Fort Monroe signing ceremony attended by the Secretary of the Army last November. As noted in a post newspaper article written about that event, the signing ceremony serves as an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by Soldiers and their families and a promise of funding, building and maintaining top quality programs that make military life second to none. Providing top quality medical care and support services for Soldiers who are injured in combat is being stressed as well through the ongoing Warrior Care Month and Warrior Healthcare Covenant activities occurring throughout the Army.