News: Sign symbolizes community connection
Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos
GIG HARBOR, Wash.— Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and local civilians joined together at the Gig Harbor welcome sign in the early morning hours May 24 to witness the unveiling of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade community connector sign, signifying 13 years of working hand-in-hand.
“From those early days, we’ve developed and grown into this partnership and its really been exciting to meet soldiers of the partnership between the unit and the community that began in 2000,” said Warren Zimmerman, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Chuck Hunter spoke about the benefits of having a partnership with the military and a connection to its service members during the ceremony.
“It’s about our relationship with Joint Base Lewis-McChord and it’s about people,” said Mayor Hunter. “This is a chance to get to know the people who are protecting us.”
Col. Paul Norwood, commander of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, echoed in agreement.
“We simply couldn’t do what we do without our partners and family members who live in our communities,” said Norwood. “It is a privilege to be a partner with the city of Gig Harbor.”
In the past, the brigade found opportunities to give back and support its community by donating nonperishable items to the city food bank during the Army-wide ‘Make a Difference Day,’ assisting with the ‘Race for a Soldier,’ grading Senior Projects, and assisting in providing a Christmas tree from JBLM for the community tree-lighting ceremony.
“We really appreciate you and are happy to be your partners in this community,” Zimmerman said.
During the holidays, Gig Harbor donated a tremendous amount of toys in support of JBLM’s ‘Santa’s Castle Program’ and a local business leader provided over 400 Christmas trees within 72 hours after JBLM ran out supporting ‘Trees for Troops’.
The community came together and collected 5,000 cookies, 50 boxes total, and sent them to deployed troops in Iraq, said the Mayor’s wife, Dianne Hunter.
Norwood said the city of Gig Harbor also helped setup single Soldiers barracks rooms for the troops who were returning home by stocking their refrigerators with water, making their beds, and leaving little momentous that said how much their service was appreciated.
“This is a very supportive community of the military,” said Barry , an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce.
Recently JBLM hosted Armed Forces Day, allowing local communities to visit the post.
“We are stationed right outside of all these local cities and it is helpful to the surrounding communities to know what’s going on around their neighborhood,” said Pfc. Matthew Burkett, the youngest Soldier in the battalion.
During the first Saturday of June the brigade will provide a color guard for the Maritime Gig Festival parade and a cleanup crew after the concert later that night.
“It’s an Army Family wherever you go and this community feels like an extension of our unit,” said Maj. Steven J. Kurczak, the brigade fire support officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 201st BfSB.
The community connection sign is another symbol of the continuing commitment between the 201st BFSB and Gig Harbor.