Covenant offers aid to Army families

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After Sgt. Edmundo Rivera was injured during a tour in Iraq, he knew he would be coming home for treatment. He just didn't know if his family, who lived in Puerto Rico at the time, could come with him.

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Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley (left) of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Clark signed the family covenant.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley (left) of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Clark signed the family covenant.

But after nearly two years and six surgeries to his shattered left knee, Sgt. Rivera, his wife and two young sons are living in an apartment near Fort Gordon. Without the assistance provided by Fort Gordon's Army Community Services, Sgt. Rivera said it would not be so.

"The thing that I see as most important is they were able to help me keep my family," he said. "I can say firsthand because when we first arrived we didn't have anything. They were able to help us out directly."

During a signing ceremony Monday for the Army Family Covenant at the post's Gordon Club, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, the post's commander, stressed the need to continue and improve that support. The covenant will be sent to every Army installation over the next few weeks to "signify their commitment to serving and supporting Army families who have a military member deployed," a news release said.

Fort Gordon has begun to see the fruits of the $1.4 billion allocated worldwide to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families, which is important as soldiers undergo long and repeated deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, Brig. Gen. Foley said.

The fort is hiring personnel to staff a new Soldier and Family Assistance Center, which aids soldiers and their families by providing job-search tools for spouses and child-care referrals.

There have also been improvements to parks, bus stops, and the planned construction and renovation of 310 family homes on the base, some of which are already completed.

Meanwhile, a final reconstructive surgery to Sgt. Rivera's knee is fast approaching. He already knows he won't be able to return to his job in aviation mechanics, but he hopes he will be able to stay in the military, possibly working with computers. Either way, it doesn't matter, he said, as his 3-year-old son Eli played nearby. He feels confident he will receive the training he needs to work as a soldier or a civilian. And he already has what's most important to him.

"As long as I'm with the family it doesn't bother me," he said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.


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