Volunteer Troop-Support Groups Honored at Pentagon Ceremony
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2006 A trio of organizations with a long history of military support recognized 12 volunteer groups today for their programs that contribute to servicemembers’ quality of life.
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Lynne, congratulate Clare Lanigan, 15, Kids Serve Too youth co-chair, for winning a $7,500 grant during the 2006 Newman's Own Award ceremony at the Pentagon Aug. 11. Kids Serve Too, in partnership with Warner Brothers, spearheaded "A Thousand Thanks to Military Children," sending letters of thanks signed by a wide range of children's characters to children of deployed military members, reminding them that they are heroes too. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
All 12 winning groups are members of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which highlights corporate and grassroots efforts to support U.S. military members and their families.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was host and keynote speaker at the seventh annual Newman’s Own award ceremony at the Pentagon. Newman’s Own, the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times Media Group sponsored the event. Since the early 1980s, actor Paul Newman has been employing the proceeds from his Newman’s Own company for philanthropic purposes.
Pace thanked the winning groups, citing them as “incredible organizations that do not seek any special recognition.”
More than 120 entries were received for judging. Mary Jo Myers, wife of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, was a member of this year’s Newman Awards judging committee.
The volunteer group “Sew Much Comfort,” based in Burnsville, Minn., garnered top honors, receiving a $15,000 grant out of $75,000 in total grant monies distributed among the finalists.
Sew Much Comfort harnesses the efforts of 2,000 volunteers to make free adaptive clothing for servicemembers recovering from injuries, the group’s co-sponsor Michele Cuppy, said.
“We can’t thank the servicemembers enough for what they do for us,” Cuppy said. “That’s what really keeps us going.”
She also praised the America Supports You Program. Cuppy said the program’s Web site, www.americasupportsyou.mil, has spread the word about Sew Much Comfort’s efforts on behalf of servicemembers. “They’ve helped us along the way,” Cuppy said.
Two groups received $7,500 grants:
-- “Homes for Our Troops,” of Taunton, Mass. The group builds specially adapted homes or adapts existing homes to meet the unique needs of disabled veterans. Donations of money, land, labor and materials allow this to be done at no cost to the veteran.
-- “Kids Serve Too,” of Reston, Va. The group fosters awareness of challenges faced by military children during a parent’s deployment and provides financial assistance to keep children of deployed parents involved in extracurricular activities.
Nine groups received $5,000 grants:
-- The “Yellow Ribbon Fund,” of Washington, D.C. The group provides assistance to families of wounded troops treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center here by supplying transportation and lodging assistance and support for activities and events in the local area.
-- “Angels of Mercy,” of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270, in McLean, Va. Volunteers from the group visit wounded military members recovering at Walter Reed to prove clothing essentials and comfort items, and deliver messages of caring from across America. The project also provides requested items to combat support hospitals and remote military locations. A new effort to supply clean, used clothing to children in Iraq and Afghanistan has shipped thousands of items to military units for distribution.
-- “Operation Laptop,” part of Operation Homelink, of Chicago. The program makes refurbished wireless laptop computers available to military medical centers. The computers serve as a link between hospitalized servicemembers, veterans and their families, allowing them to communicate to those waiting back home and still serving overseas.
-- “Operation Helping Hand,” of the Tampa, Fla., chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. The group provides assistance to servicemembers who were seriously wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and are now receiving treatment at the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa.
-- “Our Military Kids,” of McLean, Va. The group is dedicated to making essential extracurricular activities, including tutoring services, available to children of deployed and severely injured reserve and National Guard servicemembers.
-- “Eagle Heroes Project,” of Fort Campbell, Ky., and Nashville and Clarksville, Tenn. The project focuses on providing services for families of deployed soldiers and for wounded soldiers returning from combat operations. Volunteers work with counselor advocates at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, at Fort Campbell to meet daily needs and respond to emergency situations for families and wounded servicemembers.
-- “United Through Reading,” of San Diego. The program allows deployed military parents to stay connected with their children by reading aloud on videotape. The program has served more than 143,000 military personnel, spouses and children.
-- “Emergency Support Services Program,” part of Operation Homefront, of San Diego. The group serves as a lifeline for families of deployed servicemembers during emergencies. The program provides crucial support to San Diego’s military families.
-- “Stars for Stripes,” of Nashville. The group aims to enhance the morale of servicemen and women overseas by allowing celebrity entertainers to donate their time by touring remote locations.
Pace said the American people are firmly behind their troops. The groups receiving this award are indicative of that support, he said. "There's so many folks to say 'thanks' to today,” Pace said. “And it's just a delight to be a part of this."