‘Spirit of America Tour’ Founder Receives Top Public Service Honor
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2007 With country music legend Charlie Daniels at his side, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England today honored Robert Rosenthal, who with his wife Nina has been bringing top entertainers to stateside troops since 2002.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England (right) presents the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service to Robert Rosenthal (center), founder and financer of the "Spirit of America Tour," which brings top entertainers to military installations around the nation. Joining Rosenthal at the ceremony is Charlie Daniels, of the internationally acclaimed Charlie Daniels Band, one of the principal groups involved in the Spirit of America Tour. Defense Dept. photo by R. D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
England presented Rosenthal the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service for his and his wife’s support for the men and women in uniform. The medal is the highest honorary award the department can present to a private citizen.
The Rosenthals created the Spirit of America Tour after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to boost the morale of the troops and their families at stateside bases with headline performances, Rosenthal said. Since then, they’ve poured in more than $2 million of their own money to cover overhead expenses and recruited big-name performers such as Daniels who are willing to volunteer their time. To date, they’ve put on 92 concerts for more than 450,000 troops and their families.
England praised Rosenthal for devoting countless hours coordinating with artists, agents, managers and Defense Department officials to arrange shows that bring “a touch of home” to military bases.
“Thanks for all your great work and contribution … in remembering our men and women in uniform.” England said. “It’s wonderful that you do this.”
Daniels, whose band frequently entertains troops through the Spirit of America Tour program, called Rosenthal “a truly great American who has all the services very much at heart and … wanted to be a part of making life a little easier for them.”
Rosenthal noted that with so much focus on U.S. troops deployed overseas, sometimes those serving stateside get overlooked. “They need a morale boost, also,” he said. “They need somebody from the entertainment industry to say to them, ‘We support you.’” Hearing that message directly from entertainers like Daniels who come to their bases as volunteers means a lot to troops and their families, he said.
Seventy-year-old Daniels, who remembers the Pearl Harbor attack and grew up at a time of “intense patriotism,” said today’s troops deserve nothing less.
“What they are doing is protecting America,” he said. “I know in my mind and I know in my heart that what we are doing in Iraq and what we are doing in Afghanistan is the war on terror….It is the most serious situation this country has been involved in since the Second World War.”
“The world will never be the same again,” since the 9/11 attacks and the spread of terrorism, he said. “And the only thing standing between us and (terrorists) is our military, and they deserve our support.”
Daniels said he likes to share that support when he walks on stage to entertain the troops. He said he’s traveled the country “coast to coast and border to border every year,” and knows that public support for the military goes “incredibly beyond” what the media reports. “I want them to know it,” he said.
He also wants the troops to know “that they did not give up the prime years of their life volunteering for something that made no difference.”
“It does make a difference,” Daniels said. “It is the difference between America being free and America not being free. It is the difference of America being safe and America not being safe. It is the difference between there being an America and there not being an America. And I believe that with all my heart.”
Daniels’ next scheduled appearance with the Spirit of America Tour will be Sept. 9 at Fort Polk, La.
The Spirit of America Tour is a partner in the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program that showcases the many initiatives the American public is carrying out to support the troops.