By Mason W. Canales and Holly Wise
Killeen Daily Herald
Lampasas', Kempner's and Florence's relationship with Fort Hood let residents learn about the military and show support for troops.
There is a good reason to keep the communication lines open between what is happening with the military and Fort Hood and what is happening in Lampasas, said Lampasas Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jill Carroll.
While the city of Lampasas is about 30 miles from the Fort Hood Main Gate, the county only sits about 10 miles away.
"There is a lot of population, especially our county population, that are military dependent families," Carroll said. "And there are a lot of people in Kempner who are military families."
Fort Hood and the efforts it supports, such as the Adopt-A-Unit program, which is run by the Association of the United States Army, are strengthening the ties with the community by participating in those programs, said Kempner Mayor Gene Isenhour.
"This is about being good neighbors, and we are neighbors with Fort Hood," Isenhour said.
But there is something else there, too.
A significant portion of Kempner is made up of active-duty soldiers or military retirees, Isenhour said.
"Fort Hood supports a lot of our residents with jobs and with benefits or resources, and as a city, we must look after our residents. There is that knowledge that the cities are helping take care of their military families," Isenhour said.
While Kempner has seen some tangible benefits from its close relationship with its adopted unit, such as the construction of the Sylvia Tucker Memorial Park, which was partially constructed by the 36th Engineer Brigade, Kempner makes sure to always invite the brigade to its Veterans and Memorial Day ceremonies, where residents show their respect to the soldiers, Isenhour said.
City officials also welcome soldiers during homecomings and participate in other Fort Hood ceremonies, Isenhour said.
The Lampasas Independent School District also believes it is beneficial to have a close working relationship with Fort Hood, LISD Superintendent Randall Hoyer said.
"I think it is important to maintain a relationship and keep active relationship (with the post)," Hoyer said. "We have to maintain that relationship ... to make sure the children are being taken care of."
The school also supports the Adopt-A-Unit program, with each school having its own unit, Hoyer said.
"I think the soldiers enjoy and appreciate the change in scenery and the regular routine of their job and the chance to intermingle with the students who look up to them," he said.
About 30 percent of the Lampasas student body are members of active-duty military families.
It is important that soldiers and Fort Hood feel like they have a place in the community, Carroll said.
"They need to be a part of the community that they live in, and it is our job to keep them informed of everything that is happening here," she said.
Fort Hood's partnership with surrounding communities expanded in 2009 when Florence and the U.S. Army Operational Test Command presented each other with proclamations about their relationship.
"Fort Hood approached us to be a helping hand to our city, and of course the city council was delighted to do that so the city council passed the proclamation," Florence Mayor Mary Condon said.
The proclamation was passed in December 2009 and since then, both parties have enjoyed the mutual relationship.
"One of the things they do is bring enthusiasm and their ability to do so much for the community and their ability to put things together when others can't," Florence Chamber of Commerce Director Robert Chambers said.
Eloise Lundgren, OTC's spokeswoman, said OTC and Florence have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship since establishing its partnership.
The command participates in Florence's community activities like Friendship Days, parades and annual Chamber of Commerce banquets, Lundgren said.
In addition, 10 OTC soldiers and family members served as judges for the Friendship Days barbecue cook-off last year and also participated in the annual Make-A-Difference Day for the last three years. OTC has raised money and given backpacks and food items for the Communities in Schools' Backpack Buddy program, Lundgren said.
Florence city officials and residents participate in Fort Hood events such as OTC's commander, Brig. Gen. Don MacWillie's, promotion ceremony in March 2010 and the annual Civic Leaders' Day in May.
"We love these folks; we enjoy having them over and they've been really good to us," Chambers said. "We appreciate what they do for our country."