'America Supports You' Rolls Down 5th Avenue
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
NEW YORK, Nov. 11, 2005 Active supporters of U.S. servicemembers rolled down historic 5th Avenue here today in the city's Veterans Day parade, riding on a float for the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program.
A sign at the front of the America Supports You program's float in New York City's Veterans Day parade Nov. 11 commemorates support for American military forces. Photo by John D. Banusiewicz
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The parade capped off DoD's commemoration of World War II's 60th anniversary and was billed as "The Nation's Parade." America Supports You showcases what Americans are doing around the country to support military members and their families through it's the program's Web site at www.americasupportsyou.mil.
The America Supports You float featured members of various grassroots-level organizations affiliated with the DoD program. Organizations featured included:
- "A Million Thanks." Spearheaded by California high school student Shauna Fleming, the program has resulted in more than 1.4 million expressions of thanks being conveyed to servicemembers deployed in the global war on terror.
- "My Soldier." Army Reserve Sgt. Juan Salas started the program at Manhattanville College, in Purchase, N.Y., after returning home from 14 months in Iraq. The program promotes "adoption" and pen-pal relationships between Americans and deployed servicemembers.
- "Operation Homefront." Begun in San Diego by military spouses and retirees in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the program focuses on helping military families with such things as home and auto repairs, scholarships and financial assistance.
- "Kids Serve 2." The program engages schools and communities to address the hardships children face with a parent's deployment. The family of Army Reserve Maj. Kevin Lanigan, who is serving in Iraq after having previously been deployed to Bosnia and Afghanistan, represented the organization on the America Supports You float.
- "Salute Our Services." Helping deployed servicemembers and their families stay in touch. Salute Our Services encourages and facilitates use of the Internet to keep military families in touch.
- "Stars for Stripes." This organization works in conjunction with Armed Forces Entertainment to provide quality professional entertainment to servicemembers deployed to remote locations.
New York City police estimated that more than a half million people lined the parade route on a cold, blustery day. Organizers expected more than 25,000 parade participants, including active-duty units and veterans groups from every state.
Though she said it was "really great" to be part of the parade to promote a cause she believes in so deeply, Fleming noted the temperatures in the 40s and a biting northwesterly wind. As her brother, Ryan, huddled in a makeshift shelter he formed from America Supports You signs, she jumped and shivered to keep warm. "I don't think I've ever been this cold in my whole life," the Orange, Calif., teenager said. But as she compared notes with members of other troop-support organizations, it was clear there was no place she'd rather be.
Salas pointed out that Veterans Day marks his organization's anniversary. "We wanted to start on Veterans Day," he said, "because for a soldier there's no better day than Veterans Day. Today, America remembers its soldiers."