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Daughters of American Revolution Honor Soldiers, Supporter

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2006 – The Daughters of the American Revolution honored two soldiers and the founder of an organization that builds adaptive homes for wounded servicemembers at their 115th annual meeting here June 30.

The evening's events included an address by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accepted the organization's Patriot award on behalf of the nation's servicemembers. Later, two special soldiers were honored.

Army Lt. Thomas E. Ceremuga received the Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee Award. McGee, the founder of the 105-year-old Army Nurse Corps, was a physician and director of the DAR's hospital corps during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Ceremuga is "an extraordinarily gifted certified registered nurse and anesthetist" and an excellent Army Nurse Corps officer and educator, DAR President-General Presley Merritt Wagoner said. Ceremuga is the Army's premier subject matter expert and educator regarding the use of anesthesia to treat wounded soldiers, Wagoner added.

Army Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, was on hand for the ceremony. Ceremuga said he was honored to receive the award, noting Army nurses are deployed worldwide in support of the global war on terror.

"Army and military nurses have contributed significant and exciting scientific discoveries," Ceremuga said, "and provide admiral service that directly supports the care of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as they serve our nation at war."

The DAR honored another distinguished soldier, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, with the Margaret Cochran Corbin Award. Hester, who couldn't attend the ceremony to receive her award, is the first woman soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star Medal for valor.

Hester's squad was accompanying a supply convoy in Iraq on March 20, 2005, when insurgents launched an ambush. Hester, a Kentucky National Guard soldier, led her squad in a successful counter attack, killing three insurgents with her rifle. Two other members of Hester's unit also received the Silver Star for their actions that day. Hester, a member of the 617th Military Police Company, was 23 years old at the time of her heroics.

The DAR also recognized America Supports You member John S. Gonsalves, the 40-year-old founder and president of "Homes for Our Troops" based in Tauton, Mass. He received the DAR's Medal of Honor. Gonsalves' nonprofit organization provides specially equipped homes for wounded servicemembers. His organization is part of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which assists U.S. servicemembers and their families in myriad ways and spotlights the support they enjoy from the American public and the nation's corporate sector.

Gonsalves, a former contractor, told American Forces Press Service that he was "just thrilled" to receive the DAR award.

"I never expected to get something quite like this," he said, noting the honor "is very humbling."

Gonsalves said "Homes for Our Troops" has committed to build 20 homes for wounded servicemembers, with seven completed.

"Supporting our troops is something that's been going on since the Revolutionary War," Gonsalves said. "And, I think that there's been times in our country's history where the support wasn't quite up to par."

U.S. servicemembers serving in the global war against terrorism definitely need the support of the American public, Gonsalves said.

"I like to think that there are two kinds of people out there -- those who serve and those who support," Gonsalves said. "Maybe not everyone can serve in the military, but everybody can certainly support them."

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote patriotism, preserve American history, and support better education for America's children. Its members can trace their lineage back to the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. The DAR is one of the world's largest service organizations, with 168,000 members and 3,000 chapters worldwide. The organization publishes the magazine, "American Spirit."

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