Civilian and military community leaders marked Feb. 16 an important day as 281 cities and towns across Washington signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant, promising to stay committed to building partnerships that support the strength, resilience and readiness of
servicemembers and their families.
The covenant is not only important for the cities and towns that pledged unwavering support, but also for the men and women of the military and those closest to them.
On hand to sign the covenant was Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, I Corps commanding general; Col. Kevin Kilb, 62nd Airlift Wing commander; Washington Governor Chris Gregoire; Vice President of the Association of Washington Cities and the Mayor of Puyallup Kathleen Turner. Other representatives from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard also took part in the signing.
According to Gregoire, the military accounts for 4 percent of the economy across Washington, with Joint Base Lewis-McChord and military installations throughout the state, making the military its third largest employer.
She said there is no denying the military's positive impact on communities and the state's economy.
"Our state has a long, strong, proud history of being home to men and women serving our country," Gregoire said, before signing the covenant. "We have continued appreciation for servicemembers and their families."
The body of the covenant describes the relationship among servicemembers, military families and their communities. The theme was that without the support of one, you cannot build on the support from the others.
To emphasize the importance of the military in Washington's communities, Turner asked the nearly 350 mayors, councilmen and women and military members to stand if their communities included an active duty or reserve installation or armory from any service, if they had family members currently serving in military or if they were serving in the military themselves.
Roughly three-quarters of the room stood in response.
"Do you see the impact'" Turner asked. "That is why we are signing this covenant today."
Although the state is greatly affected by the military community, the relationship isn't one-sided.
"Our servicemembers do as well as they do because they have great support," Scaparotti said.
The I Corps commanding general said he was thankful for the 281 communities who volunteered to sign the covenant, because their support directly impacts the strength and resiliency of families, a theme echoed throughout the day.
Turner reminded the guests that "freedom is not free;" it is through the service to the nation by men and women in the military that they are able to serve as elected officials, with the right to be the voices of their cities and towns. In turn, she said, the cities and towns owe the covenant's promise of support to the servicemembers and their families who give so much every day.
Stryker Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division made up the color guard, rendering honors at the beginning and end of the ceremony. The brigade sponsored the event on behalf of the JBLM and I Corps commanding general.