Duff Helps Kick Off National Military Families Week
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2005 When teen actress and singer Hilary Duff finally arrived here after a rain-delayed flight from New York, the children -- and some parents -- let out ear-piercing screams.
Sarah Negrette, 4, poses with Hilary Duff, while holding an "America Supports You" poster that represents the DoD program to recognize community support for the military. Duff came to Capitol Hill June 10 to help promote National Military Families Week. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The nearly 100 children of several dozen military families had waited for more than three hours in a Cannon Office Building meeting room on Capitol Hill June 10. Late afternoon had become early evening.
The kids had nearly finished off several cases of refreshments, had turned on and played with the microphones in this congressional meeting room, and had rolled up colorful posters on hand so they could bop one another on the head. So it was no surprise the screams accompanying the Duff's arrival were signs of relief as well as joy.
She had come to help the Armed Forces Foundation kick off its National Military Families Week. The foundation began four years ago to help servicemembers and military families in need. It is also a team member of DoD's "America Supports You" program, which showcases how Americans are supporting servicemembers and their families around the world. While here, Duff read a story to the children and afterwards took time to smile for photographs with and autograph posters for them, embracing each child after the pose and signature.
During a Pentagon Channel interview after signing autographs, Duff said that supporting the military is something that "every American" should do. She added that servicemembers are not only "saving lives" but are also "helping our country and keeping our freedom and our liberty."
"So any little thing that I can do to give back, I want to be a part of," she said.
According to foundation president Patricia Driscoll, Duff has become a big celebrity supporter of the foundation and is always willing to help military families.
Driscoll said Duff provides free front-row tickets and backstage passes to her concerts, and like the June 10 visit, takes time to meet with families of service members all around the country.
The star said it feels so "surreal" to see the reaction she gets from kids who have become her fans. "It really inspires me to keep working and to put out positive stuff for our kids to keep enjoying," Duff said.
Trembling, Kate Pumplin, 11, said meeting the star was the chance of a lifetime. "I can't describe my feelings right now," she said anxiously.
"I'm really, really, really excited to be here today. I'm her No. 1 fan. When I heard she was coming, I knew I had to find a way to get here."
Antoher fan, Tiffani Henson, 12, came with her father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Matt Henson.
Tiffani said she likes anything that's Hilary Duff. "I like her music and I like her movies," she pointed out.
But it's Duff's character that she likes the most. The star's personality is what makes her "so cool," Tiffani said.
That "cool" is one reason Tiffani's father was present. He admits he knows little about Duff, though his daughter watches television series "Lizzie McGuire" almost daily. He said he wanted to see in person the star his daughter most adored on TV.
"When you get involved in your kid's life, you kind want to see who they are watching on television and who they model themselves after, and who they look up to as role models," he said.
Henson was not disappointed. He said what Duff is doing for military families says a lot about the type of person she is.
"Many times the military is not shown how much they are appreciated for what we do, the sacrifices we make being away from our families, the things that we do to keep the country safe," he said.
"It really means a lot to have someone like her to take time out of her schedule to come to say, 'Thank you and I appreciate what you do.' That really means a lot."
Prior to Duff's appearance, the Armed Forces Foundation held a private fund-raiser at another location to kick off National Military Families Week, a weeklong-event to show support for troops and their families.
Driscoll said the foundation will use money from the fund-raiser to buy laptop computers with wireless capability for soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
The money will also help pay for travel and hotels for families visiting soldiers at the hospital, she added.