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Top Brass Launches Operation Tribute to Freedom to Honor Troops

By Casie Vinall
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2003 – The military's highest ranking officer kicked off Operation Tribute to Freedom here today during a Pentagon press briefing.

The tribute is a way for the community to show their appreciation to the troops, according to Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"While operations in Afghanistan and Iraq continue," Myers said, "more than 100,000 of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have returned from overseas. As they do, many communities from around our country are paying tribute to the efforts and sacrifices these brave men and women have made in our global war on terrorism."

Myers said Pentagon officials have been inundated with requests from communities, companies and individuals asking how they can show their support and say thanks "for the great job our young people have done and continue to do."

"We have established Operation Tribute to Freedom as a way for the military to support as many community efforts as possible," Myers said. The initiative began on Memorial Day, he noted, "which is a natural starting point to reflect on the sacrifices of our military members and their families."

This Saturday, he added, Major League Baseball teams will fly flags that were flown over the Pentagon as part of the tribute to the troops.

Many Americans throughout the nation have already paid tribute to the nation's troops in many ways, Myers said. "Some have placed yellow ribbons on mailboxes, hosted a parade or, like one family in St. Jacob, Ill., they have taken over their neighbor's lawn care until he returns from Iraq," he said. "I think they bring new meaning to the term 'neighborly,'" the general said.

Last weekend, Myers said he was amazed at the number of flags and yellow ribbons he saw displayed while he was traveling through small towns about 40 miles west of the Pentagon. These displays, he said, are all part of the national effort to recognize the sacrifices that our armed forces make

"The official Tribute to Freedom events scheduled for this summer and beyond will continue that support for our fighting forces," Myers concluded.

Army Brig. Gen. Andy Aadland, executive director of the Pentagon's Tribute to Freedom committee, said the effort "is all about the troops. This is our opportunity to recognize them, to pay tribute to their efforts, and it's an honor for me to be heading up a joint team that's going to lead this effort."

Aadland said the tribute has three major goals: thank the servicemen and women, strengthen the tie between citizens and the military and recognize that the war on terror is not over yet. Many events are scheduled around the country throughout the summer and until Veterans Day.

Eleven military bands will perform in many different states this weekend, for example. The Fourth of July will be a major event in this Tribute to Freedom initiative. Hundreds of service members will be returning to their hometowns to participate in local events.

The Pentagon initiative also includes a way for citizens to join the Operation Tribute to Freedom team. www.DefendAmerica.mil, the Defense Dept.'s official Web site on the war on terrorism, features Operation Tribute to Freedom. Here, people can "Join the Team" and receive a certificate signed by Myers acknowledging their support.

Children can color a patriotic cartoon. A press kit, posters, logos and a screensaver are also available for downloading. The site also features a map listing community events throughout the states. Communities or organizations may also submit information about their upcoming events.

Both Myers and Aadland encouraged all to get involved. Aadland said citizens can "let us know through our Web site, DefendAmerica.mil, about what particular small thing they've done to recognize our troops and to get on and join in the excitement of this great campaign."

Myers expressed his appreciation to those that have already done their part to show their support for the troops.

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