Military personnel, the Cedar Hills City Council and city business leaders signed the Cedar Hills Community Covenant Program under an enormous American flag suspended between two Lone Peak Fire District ladder trucks over Cedar Hills Boulevard. As the flag fluttered in the waning light of the sunset Tuesday evening, Cedar Hills committed the community's loyalty and resources to military service residents and their families.
Under the program, families of active-duty service members get discounted or free services from participating businesses in the community.
The Community Covenant Program was created in 2008 by the United States Army, but the program is designed to reach out to all military service members regardless of branch of service. The intent of the program is to encourage all cities and towns across the country to formally commit to supporting service members and their families.
The initiative in Utah began with a Community Covenant citation read on the floors of the Utah House and Senate. The objective is to help cities and towns form a collaborative group consisting of civic leaders, educators, law enforcement, ecclesiastical representatives, health providers, veterans service organizations and businesses or other organizations of the city's choosing. The purpose of this collaborative group is to evaluate and decide what the city or town can do to support the needs of service members and their families.
Cedar Hills, under the direction of Councilwoman Jenney Rees, developed a plan to help the families of service members who are called to active duty in a hostile fire area.
"This plan will allow us to help alleviate some of the burden these families face when a deployment occurs. Each family will be required to present deployment papers and will be eligible for these benefits as long as the service member is serving in a hostile fire area," Rees said.
Rees and the city council reached out to business leaders to join in this program. Roughly 20 businesses -- from dentists to photography studios, from retail and gas stations to HVAC companies -- signed the covenant committing their support to these families.
"The commitment of each business will be unique and will be based on whatever works best for that business. We have already had many generous business owners offer up a variety of options from discounted to free services for our Cedar Hills service members and their families," Rees said. "We are grateful to those in our community who are joining us in finding ways to express our appreciation for the sacrifice these service members make."
Cedar Hills resident Julie Patterson, wife of active service member Jerry Patterson, thanked supporters in an emotional speech.
"It is so hard being left home for a whole year. I'm the one who fixes the shower, fixes the flat tires. We have four kids, and I'm the one getting them to four different places at a time," she said. "Plus, every day dreading that knock on the door. And I got that knock on the door and two military personnel told me Jerry had been injured in Afghanistan. Luckily he healed, and still went back in 2010."
Her husband is home, but Patterson knows the need for the services of the community for all active-duty families.
"I'm so grateful for the communities and businesses that recognize what we go through back home," she said.
Lt. Earl Simmons spoke on behalf of the military, and said the covenant program is meant to serve the families in just that way. He also expressed how important it is for the community to reach out and understand the psychological effects of war on those serving and also their families.
"We want to foster a relationship between the community and the military. We wanted to create a program that educates local leaders and shares the great programs out there for these families," Simmons said. "We are trying to build a Community Covenant network around the state."
Cedar Hills was just a small part of that effort Tuesday night -- but a proud part nonetheless. "Soldiers find strength in their families and strength in the communities they're from, and your families are being helped by this community," Simmons said.
For information on how to help this program in Cedar Hills, residents can contact Rees at email@example.com.