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DoD’s America Supports You Program Honored for Assisting Military Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2006 – The Defense Department’s America Supports You program was one of five Support of Military Families award recipients honored at the National Military Family Association’s award reception at the Hart Senate Office Building here last night.

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Celia Hoke holds a Support of Military Families award from the National Military Family Association honoring the Defense Department’s America Supports You Program. Hoke, special assistant to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber, accepted the award on behalf of the Defense Department on Sept. 27. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Celia Hoke accepted the award on behalf of the Defense Department. Hoke is special assistant to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber, who manages the American Supports You program.

“I … wish to express the appreciation of Deputy Assistant Secretary (of Defense) for Public Affairs Allison Barber -- the maestro of the America Supports You program -- for your association’s special recognition of ASY and for your significant support of military families,” Hoke said. “All of us dedicated to the America Supports You program are grateful to the National Military Family Association for the special recognition your award signifies.”

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and during the subsequent deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people rallied to support America’s military men and women, she said.

“An initial outpouring of verbal thanks turned into more organized action as American businesses, communities and citizens of all ages began launching numerous projects nationwide to support military members, especially those serving in harm’s way,” Hoke said.

America Supports You began in November 2004 to help citizens share morale-boosting communication with the troops. Now, with more than 225 nonprofit grassroots organizations and more than 25 corporate team members, it also facilitates public support for servicemembers.

In the nearly two years since its inception, the America Supports You Web site has helped connect more than 2 million people looking for or offering help.

Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, said there were two reasons her organization was recognizing America Supports You.

“It was a fantastic idea to gather all of that information about the many ways people are supporting military families to encourage more support and also to show servicemember and their families how much the nation cares about them,” she said. “We’re also recognizing America Supports You as kind of a proxy for all of those ‘mom-and-pop’ organizations out there who’ve stepped up (to support servicemembers and their families).”

The National Military Family Association was one of the first members of America Supports You. Participation in the program has made the association’s mission easier, Raezer said.

“It used to be that we spent a lot of time connecting families with resources and connecting people who wanted to help with military families who needed that help,” she said. “Now, when we get those calls -- and we get a lot of them -- we can refer people to America Supports You.”

Prior to receiving the award, Hoke said the National Military Families Association’s recognition of America Supports You speaks volumes about the program.

“It really is a wonderful thing to receive this award from the National Military Family Association because they are so supportive of our military families,” she said. “It says a lot about the program, but perhaps even more significantly, receiving the award gives greater visibility to America Supports You.”

Greater visibility means more assistance for servicemembers and military families, she said.

Two senators, Carl Levin of Michigan and Mike DeWine of Ohio, also were recognized for their efforts to enhance military death benefits. Additionally, DeWine worked to extend active duty TRICARE health benefits to surviving military children.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by such an effective group on such an important issue,” Levin said.

He said one of the greatest privileges of serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee is the close contact he has with servicemembers. “It is only the sacrifices of the families that make possible the service of our troops,” he said.

DeWine also said the award was a great honor. “It’s significant because, as I look out at this audience, I see a Gold Star Mother (and) I see a widow,” he said. “These are people who are the family members of our servicemen and women.”

Gerald Leeling, minority counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee, was recognized for addressing the needs of military families through funding, improved programs and expanded benefits. He also assisted Levin in ensuring equitable benefits for all survivors of deceased active duty members.

The National Military Family Association presented Jean Silvernail, Department of Defense State Liaison Office, with a Support of Military Families award for tireless dedication in support of quality education and support for military school children. Silvernail helped create three toolkits to assist families, school districts and military leaders in easing military students’ transitions.

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Related Sites:
America Supports You
National Military Family Association

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