HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Leaders from across the Tennessee Valley kicked off Armed Forces Celebration Week festivities with a proclamation signing ceremony at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce June 25.

The proclamation signing gives the surrounding community an opportunity to honor the service and sacrifice of men and women who have served in the all branches of the military, past and present. It also recognizes the partnership of Team Redstone with North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley.

"Today I have the great distinction and privilege of representing Gen. Gustave Perna, (commanding general of Army Materiel Command) as well as Team Redstone in kicking off the week," said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. "Representing the 40,000 civilians and Soldiers and professionals who work on Redstone Arsenal every day, it is indeed an honor for me to be here to accept this proclamation and the great words that are in it. It is very genuine and reflective of how this community supports the Army as well as the more than 70 organizations that work on Team Redstone every day."

He said it was a privilege to live and work in a community that offers a highly technical and knowledgeable workforce for the many critical defense and scientific missions Team Redstone organizations perform in service to the nation.

Dickinson talked about celebrating 60 years since the U.S. Army put the United States into space with the launch of America's first satellite, Explorer 1. He said that out of that effort, which came from the hard work of so many Huntsville and Northern Alabama engineers, ultimately came NASA.

The general said 60 years later, both NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and USASMDC/ARSTRAT are still here because there is no better place and community to accomplish the mission.

"From the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and I could go on-and-on, we have tremendous growth that is going on in Team Redstone today and a lot of that is a result of the great leadership here in the front row and the warmth of the community around us," Dickinson said. "It is a pleasure for me to get to do this today. Thank you for all that you do."

Dickinson accepted the proclamation that was signed by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison City Mayor Paul Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong to dedicate a weeklong series of events to honor Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Department of Defense civilian employees in the local community.

Battle said he appreciates how the community supports the military members and civilians who work on the Arsenal. He also thanked Team Redstone members who have made North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley home as they defend America.

"To all of our community partners here today, thank you for your support," Battle said. "We take a week and we honor our armed forces - Those who protect us and those who make our country a safe place. To them, thank you for your service. Your service does not go unnoticed and your service makes our community a better place."

Aside from the proclamation, the chamber's annual Armed Forces Celebration Week includes a concert in the park, A Gold Star Family reception and Army Materiel Command Band farewell performance, an Armed Forces Celebration Luncheon and other events.

Finley remarked on how special the community is, and that others outside the area recognize how close Team Redstone's relationship is with its neighbors.

"My mom said our community is unique," Finley said. "She is correct in one sense, because this community takes this week and this year and what the military does for us so personally. So many people have done their tours of duty for this country to give us freedom then they move back.

"This is so big that we can't just have a day, we have to have a week," he added. "I can't be any more proud as a mayor of a community that gets it when it comes to being proud of our country. Thank you to all of you for your service, we are humbled by what you have done for us and we don't take it for granted."

Strong explained how the service men and women epitomize vigilance and how the community does a great job honoring veterans and those who continue to serve the country.

"Redstone Arsenal defines preparedness," Strong said. "I want to thank you again for your service. We understand what our U.S. warfighter means to this country."