A military and civilian partnership of more than 20 years was affirmed for a second time Friday, as several dignitaries signed a new Army Community Covenant.
Among the over 20 signees of the symbolic agreement is General Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff for the United States Army. The four-star-general, who previously served as commander of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, called the posts development symbiotic with the surrounding North Country area.
This is a place where soldiers want to serve and where families want to raise children, he said.
The first covenant was signed in 2008, making the Watertown area the second community to sign such an agreement with its nearby military post.
The reality is, a strong partnership already existed before the covenant was made, Gen. Austin said.
Noting the number of soldiers returning from deployment, he said the recovery of soldiers from the physical and emotional damage of war was a top priority.
The signing ceremony drew several hundred soldiers and community members to Salmon Run Mall.
Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the posts and divisions commanding general, spoke about the strong connection between soldiers and their families and the general community.
We cannot thank you enough, Gen. Milley said. Our children go to your schools. Our families shop in this mall. Our sick, our wounded, our ill are treated at Samaritan and Carthage. Our babies are born in your hospitals. We drink your water. We use your electricity.
Several state, regional and city officials also took part in the signing, including U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy.
The 10th Mountain Division has done more than its duty in the last 10 years, and we are grateful for that, Mr. Owens said.
Calling the North Country a model for other military communities, Mr. Duffy also read a portion of a proclamation from the governor celebrating the Armys 237th birthday, which took place Thursday.
Among the major talking points of the ceremony was the announcement that Watertown was picked as one of the countrys most patriotic towns in the 2012 Road Rally competition, and that judges from Rand McNally, which sponsors the event, would be in the area this weekend.
Its no surprise to me that youre being looked at seriously for the awards you so clearly deserve, Gen. Austin said.
Other military representatives at the ceremony included F. Anthony Keating, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, and Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., the former Fort Drum rear senior commander who now serves as the deputy commander of the state Army National Guard. Also in attendance were state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; state Assembly members Kenneth Blankenbush, R-Black River, and Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, and city Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham.