By U.S. ArmyNovember 17, 2011
The installation continued its partnership with the local community by signing the third annual Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce covenant Nov. 10.
The event, which was hosted in conjunction with Veterans Day, allowed the garrison command and local civilian leaders to share their thoughts on the importance of partnership and the Soldiers serving in foreign conflicts.
"We found a way to live together and do for each other as neighbors do," said Gerry Hyland, Mount Vernon supervisor, who has seen the community and Belvoir grow together throughout his 24 years of service on the Fairfax County Board.
For Hyland, the relationship is similar to the relationship American Soldiers had with French citizens while he was stationed there as a member of the U.S. Air Force.
The French gave medals, letters, photos and flowers to Soldiers as a thank you for the sacrifice Americans made to help protect them during conflicts.
They also expressed personal condolences to him after the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963.
Hyland, who said it is a privilege to have Belvoir part of his district, said the goal for Mount Vernon is to show a similar appreciation for Belvoir and veterans across the nation.
"This community will not let them forget how we feel about what they've done," Hyland said.
Tim Sargeant, chairman of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, said the civilian community has shared tremendous growth with the installation.
Mount Vernon strongly considers Belvoir, when developing its plan for the future, because Belvoir's interests are intertwined with the community, whether it's transportation or education, Sargeant said.
Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander Col. John Strycula was happy to sign the covenant on behalf of the 8,500 Soldiers and Families living on post.
Strycula said the event was a great way to honor Veterans Day because it pledges community support to servicemembers.
He encouraged attendees to rededicate themselves to supporting Soldiers, who have given their lives in conflicts and those who are currently deployed protecting the nation's freedom.
"The covenant signatures today signified that we, the community, recognize the commitment our Soldiers and their Families are making every day," Strycula said, "and that the strength of our Soldiers comes from the strength of their Families and the strength of the Families come from the support from the community."
Strycula encourages business members to hire Wounded Warriors and encourages people to support volunteer organizations such as the USO.
"Supporting these organizations is not just about donations. It's about giving your time and your talents," said Strycula. "A simple thing like listening to a veteran can make such a difference and it's an easy way to support these heroes."
U.S. Representative Jim Moran offered his own thoughts on helping veterans as well stating that these servicemembers should have preference in the job market.
He also encouraged people to participate in the White House's Joining Forces national initiative to help strengthen veterans and their Families through wellness, education and employment programs.
Helping veterans, upon their return to civilian life, is very important to Moran, who remembers the poor treatment Soldiers received after the Vietnam War.
Moran said many male, homeless adults are likely to be Vietnam veterans and he attributes this fact, in large part, to the nation's attitude toward the veterans upon returning home from the contentious conflict.
"We can't let that happen again," Moran said. "We have to ensure that our veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are properly received in this country, regardless of how you think about the war, you got to admire the courage, the dedication and the patriotism of these young men and women."
Strycula also spoke to the need of honoring returning veterans.
"Our democracy," Strycula said, "depends on the willingness of our finest men and women to step forward and to dedicate themselves to a greater cause than themselves: the cause of protecting our freedom."
He furthered this point by citing a quote from the George Washington who said: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Strycula urged people not to forget Washington's opinion.