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Pentagon Launches National Salute to U.S. Troops Waging War on Terror

By Denise Brown
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2003 – The Pentagon's latest military operation doesn't involve tanks, ships or aircraft. Operation Tribute to Freedom involves the American public.

Defense officials want people to be able to thank the men and women in uniform for waging war on terror.

On Memorial Day, traditionally a day to pay tribute to the nation's fallen service men and women, Defense Department officials launched Operation Tribute to Freedom. The initiative is "a way to thank the men and women in uniform who have done such an amazing job," said Chris Willcox, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

"There's an enormous number of spontaneous events going on around the country to thank troops," Willcox added. "Everything from Kiwanis events, Chamber of Commerce events, parades in small towns to declarations by cities and towns thanking the men and women in uniform."

Although most of these events have been focused on troops returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Tribute to Freedom also salutes troops serving in other parts of the world. Troops serving in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and Georgia are all engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom's war against terrorism, Willcox said, "a war that continues, a war in which we are determined that we will prevail."

Willcox explained the Defense Department initiative encompasses three goals: first and foremost, to thank the troops. The second goal is to create a stronger bond between the military and citizens, and third, to underscore the fact that the global war on terrorism continues.

"It's not over yet," he stressed. "It's not even over in Iraq. It's still a dangerous place. We still have a lot of work to do in helping that country rebuild itself."

U.S. forces remain engaged in "ensuring stabilization activities in Afghanistan are successful and rooting out the terrorist groups and terrorist organizations that still operate globally and still represent a tremendous threat," he added.

As part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, defense officials are lining up military officers and enlisted troops, as well as civilian leaders, for speaking engagements in interested communities and organizations.

"We've got two major speakers programs," Willcox said. "In the coming months, veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom will be available to go communities and talk about their experiences. The second program, which we're calling our Hometown Heroes program, will send civilian and military leaders of all ranks back to their hometowns to talk to interested groups and organizations about ongoing efforts in the war against terrorism."

Holidays and special commemorations, such as the upcoming Flag Day on Saturday, June 14, will feature events to express support and appreciation for the troops.

For example, Major League Baseball will feature notable Flag Day troop tributes. Flagpoles at stadiums hosting more than a dozen games scheduled that day will sport a U.S. flag that has been flown over the Pentagon. Fans can focus on this special flag during the singing of the national anthem.

Also, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the New York Yankees-St. Louis Cardinals game that day.

For more information about Operation Tribute to Freedom and upcoming events, go to DefendAmerica.mil, the Defense Department's Web site for news on the war on terrorism. The site features a way for the public to send welcome home messages to the troops and read a daily sampling submitted from across the country.

Site visitors can also search the online "Thank You Note" to pick out the names of people they know out of the nearly 11 million signers of the note since it was launched in May 2002.

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