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Hometown Support for Operation Tribute to Freedom is "Extraordinary"

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2003 – More than 1,000 hometowns across the nation will join the Defense Department this Fourth of July in recognizing hometown heroes and honoring the men and women who have served in the war on terrorism.

The recognition is part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, and Army Maj. Gen. Anders B. Aadland, executive director for the campaign, says the outpouring of support by the American public for the military has been "extraordinary."

The Tribute to Freedom campaign runs through Veterans Day. Its focus is to salute military personnel returning home from the war on terrorism and to strengthen the relationship between American public and the military, Aadland said.

"It certainly has been a reaffirmation. The momentum of hometowns welcoming returning military service men and women from the war is there," Aadland said. He added his staff had to take advantage of the "tremendous patriotism and a spirit of recognition that exists out there already."

"I'd say it's been extraordinary. We didn't realize the number of hometowns we would be able to get to sign up and say, 'We want to do this' (and) 'We're very concerned about doing what we can to recognize the great service of our military and the global war on terrorism,'" he said.

Although Memorial Day events that kicked off the operation drew lots of support, Aadland believes this year's Fourth of July celebration will be the campaign's biggest show of public support yet.

Events for the July Fourth weekend range from parades and fireworks displays to concerts and sporting events where "they have dedicated time to raise the flag in patriotism and honor our service men and women. It runs the whole gamut and is comprehensive across the whole nation."

"The focus is on the communities, the hometown and returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who now can go and spend a little time with their families and be recognized for their service," he said. "Across the nation it's been an outcry of support," he added.

Besides the thrust to thank military personnel for their "bravery, commitment and dedication" in the terror war, Aadland emphasized the campaign's focus on letting the American public know that the global war continues. "It's not over," he said. "Our military men and women continue to serve and should be recognized.

"This effort is a way to establish the spirit that welcomes and recognizes the tremendous service of our troops. This is all about the troops," he said.

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