By Emily Baker

Killeen Daily Herald

TEMPLE – Mutual appreciation was swapped Friday between the Army and a community that supports it.

"We are proud today to be able to recognize you and thank you for all you do," said Temple Mayor Bill Jones III at a Temple Chamber of Commerce military appreciation luncheon.

Dozens of soldiers from Fort Hood attended the luncheon, the audience of which was addressed by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, who said it was good "to feel welcome and like people care about you."

Odierno encouraged the communities represented at the luncheon to continue to support the post's soldiers because deployments to the Middle East continue. About three-quarters of the post's strength will be deployed come October, Odierno said.

Soon after that, the 4th Infantry Division is scheduled to begin returning from Iraq, where it has been training Iraqi soldiers and security forces since late last year.

But the end is not in sight for Fort Hood, because the U.S. military continues "to be counted on by the majority (of Iraqis) to bring peace ... and stability," Odierno said.

But progress is being made in Iraq, he said, especially by seating a democratic government and by working to re-establish and improve the country's infrastructure.

Some 3,700 reconstruction projects are planned, about 3,500 of which are under way, and about 2,800 projects have been completed, Odierno said.

Odierno also cited the 2,000 tips called in by Iraqis to phone lines set up by the Army as progress. He said 800 arrests have been made as a result of the tips.

Odierno called the progress "seeds that will undoubtedly grow as other countries (in the Middle East) see what democracy can offer."

The communities and businesses represented at the luncheon also were encouraged to maintain their support for families of deployed soldiers.

"Families can't do it alone," Odierno said. "Continue to stand behind them like you have."

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