By Bob Reinert, USAG-Natick Public AffairsJuly 18, 2012
BRAINTREE, Mass. (July 18, 2012) -- It was no surprise to see the town that produced the man known as "the father of West Point" once again step forward to support its nation's military.
This Boston suburb of 35,744 people became the 28th Massachusetts community and among more than 500 nationally to sign an Armed Forces Community Covenant in a July 18 ceremony at its 100-year-old town hall. It would have made Gen. Sylvanus Thayer proud. A Braintree native, Thayer was named superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy in 1817.
Another USMA graduate, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, spoke to those assembled for the covenant signing. He made the connection between the Braintree of today and the town of Thayer's time.
"From its early days, Braintree has a legacy of contributing to our nation," McGuiness said. "John Hancock, who wanted his signature (on the Declaration of Independence) so big that the King of England could see it without his glasses was a Braintree native.
"Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams hailed from Braintree. By signing the Community Covenant today, you are all taking your own personal place in line, as Braintree continues to lead in its service to this nation."
As McGuiness noted, Braintree agreed in the covenant to lend a hand to service members and their families, who are members of the community.
"Today, you are pledging to help provide alternatives to the Department of Defense and the Army programs," McGuiness said. "The support that you give is essential and helps build resiliency for our service members and helps reduce the stress on our families."
As Braintree Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan pointed out, the town had already recognized that obligation, backed it up with its programs, and will continue to do so.
"Braintree, as I think many of you know, is the first town in our commonwealth a hundred percent rebate for property tax to service members who are serving overseas," Sullivan told the audience. "In signing this covenant today, we recognize our obligation is not only to the service members themselves, but also to the families who anxiously await the return of their loved ones from overseas."
McGuiness used examples from three other Massachusetts communities that signed covenants to illustrate remarkable support.
In Natick, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Doe and his family received an overwhelming amount of support when their house burned down just after his return from Afghanistan in July 2010.
"The community provided support that was absolutely amazing," McGuiness said. "More than $10,000 was donated to the Does to help them get back on their feet. After their insurance was settled, the Does repaid that by giving back the $10,000 to charitable organizations throughout the town, in their town, just to say thanks."
In Pepperell, said McGuiness, "the community puts together care packages to send to deployed Soldiers. They also host a monthly breakfast for local veterans. Now they have a section in their library that has books primarily for children that deal with military separation/deployment, returning-home troop issues and issues (at) home.
"In Chelmsford, the community helps the families of deployed Soldiers with support to include everything from grocery shopping, to lawn care, to organizing social events."
Deployments, said McGuiness, affect families as well as their service members.
"I have two combat tours myself, in Iraq and Afghanistan," McGuiness said. "We know that we have your support. It lifts weight off (service members') shoulders, because they know somebody back home is taking care of the family. It allows them to focus on their mission.
"On behalf of those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Special Operators, Reservists and National Guardsmen, I want to thank you for all that you do and all that you will continue to do," McGuiness said. "Your support positively impacts military lives. Please know that everything you do to support our service members, no matter how large or how small, makes a difference."
McGuiness also acknowledge school children who watched the signing ceremony from a balcony.
"I think it's great that you're all here today, because you can see a real-life civics lesson," said McGuiness as he pointed to service members in uniform, veterans, policemen and firefighters in the hall and encouraged the children to serve their country in some way, in or out of uniform.
"Soon now that legacy will be yours," McGuiness said. "You are the future (of) the nation."