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Troops, Veterans Honored at Philly Gala

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service

PHILADELPHIA, April 17, 2008 – The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia honored U.S. troops and veterans of service in Iraq and Afghanistan during a dinner here yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hands a commemorative coin to a soldier before the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia dinner in Philadelphia, April 16, 2008. The council presented its Atlas Award to U.S. troops and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistanin to recognize their service. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted the Atlas Award from the council on behalf of U.S. troops and veterans just weeks after the fifth anniversary of the onset of the war in Iraq.

The Atlas Award is typically given by the council -- a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to creating an informed citizenry on matters of national and international significance -- to individuals whose commitments to the community are exemplary. The council’s director said they decided to give the award this year to the troops because of their service to the country.

“It is difficult to imagine a group more deserving of recognition than the U.S. troops and veterans of service in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Frank Hermance, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia director. “They are the stewards of our defense and the standard bearers of courage in society’s unending quest to create a more just, peaceful and prosperous world.”

Hermance said the troops, which included more than 200 area soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who attended the dinner, upheld the highest standards of honor, duty and commitment.

“You have done everything that has been asked of you and more,” Hermance said. “The testimony we heard last week from (Army) General (David H.) Petraeus and the presidential remarks on our ongoing commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan speak to our nation’s dependence on and expectations of its uniformed men and women.”

Hermance also said the nation and council are thankful for those who serve. “Regardless of your rank or branch of service, each of you has heeded the call of our nation,” the director said. “Words cannot describe the debt of gratitude we owe our troops who are willing to give to their country what Abraham Lincoln called, ‘the last full measure of devotion.’”

He added that military members’ service is “profound” and reflects the World Affairs maxim of: “In a democracy, agreement is not essential, participation is.”

Cartwright said the award was a great honor for all the servicemembers and their families who attended the event. He said families are the unsung heroes that drive military members.

“It is what keeps you going on cold nights when you’re so scared you don’t really want to sleep, you can’t sleep. It is our strength, for each and every one of us that put on the uniform. They get so little credit,” he said.

The general said families are the glue that holds the family together when military members deploy. “In the buildup to going, we’re consumed by getting ready, getting trained. They’re consumed by the changes that are going on and the uncertainty in front of them. When we deploy, they’re left to do all of the jobs, to do all the things that need to be done in order to maintain the family. And when it’s over, they look forward to the homecoming and the promise of the reunion.”

Unfortunately, not everyone gets a happy homecoming, Cartwright said.

“To some, that promise is never realized,” the vice chairman said. “We should never forget those families that are living now without a loved one. This nation will always owe them a debt.”

The general also said his visits to the Iraq and Afghanistan have him convinced that the younger generation is ready to lead the country.

“You only have to visit them in places like Ramadi, Fallujah, Kandahar and the Khyber Pass. Look into their hearts, souls and eyes, and one thing you will always know is they are ready to lead this country, they are ready to make it theirs, and they are out there because they want to make sure their children won’t have to be. They deserve your prayers, your thanks, and everything you have embodied in this award tonight.”

During the dinner, the council made a donation of $110,000 to the National Military Family Association, a national charity that educates, informs, and represents the changing needs of families from all of the uniformed services. NMFA provides scholarship programs, education initiatives and general resources for military families, including programs for servicemembers who have returned from war, children separated from parents who have been deployed, and spouses seeking to build better lives for their families through further education.

The National Military Family Association will use the money in the Delaware Valley and tri-state area, including troops and families affiliated with Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, in New Jersey; Willow Grove Naval Air Station, Pa.; and Dover Air Force Base, Del.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Staff Public Affairs Office.)

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Gen. James E. Cartwright

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