Lawton_The unique relationship between Lawton and Fort Sill was strengthened on Tuesday when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and leaders from southwest Oklahoma attended a signing ceremony for the Army Community Covenant. The covenant is a national program that formalizes initiatives designed to foster the partnership between soldiers and their families and the communities where they are stationed.
Lawton and Fort Sill have had a relationship for decades - including Lawton-Fort Sill Co-op for nearly 30 years. However, the signing of the covenant on Tuesday at the Cameron University Theater signifies the beginning of two new initiatives - Fit Kids Coalition and Partners for Patriots .
Partners for Patriots was created to help soldiers and their families with continuing education. "It's going to expand educational opportunities," said Geren. "We've already seen that in the past--Cameron University has been outstanding in reaching out and providing opportunities to our soldiers, as well as the community schools."
A number of wounded warriors are currently enrolled at Cameron, and were recognized at Tuesday's ceremony. Fort Sill Commander, Major General Peter Vangjel said that it's important to help soldiers here, and families of those left behind when loved ones go to war. "The stress on these soldiers, on their families, is extraordinary," he said. "This is the third longest war in our history, the longest war we've ever fought with a volunteer army, and we have to remember that those families are volunteers as well."
Local leaders say that the covenant should how supportive the community is for all soldiers - not only those at Fort Sill. "That can only encourage the people who are moving from Fort Bliss and around the world to say, ‘Hey, we really do have folks in southwest Oklahoma who care about us,'" said Lawton Mayor John Purcell. "There has not a community in southwest Oklahoma that has not benefited from, or been a supporter of, Fort Sill," said Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins.
Askins says that Fort Sill provides economic benefits for the entire region, and makes the community a great place to live. "As the community gets better, and the community grows, it makes a better place to win for soldiers and family," she said. "It also makes it a better place to work and play for the city of Lawton. So I just think it's a win, win situation."
General Vangjel says that although Lawton depended on Fort Sill in 1901, a century later, Fort Sill continues to depend on Lawton. The covenant is a commitment from the two to continue to work together, and hopefully become a single and united community. 7News own Jan Stratton narrated the ceremony.
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