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Rumsfelds Praise Volunteers' Support of Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Feb. 17, 2006 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, met here today with representatives of nonprofit organizations that support U.S. servicemembers.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Jim Wareing of Methuen, Mass., from the "New England Caring for Our Military" troop support organization, presents Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld with a sample Massachusetts auto license plate as Mr. Rumsfeld's wife, Joyce, looks on Feb. 17 in New York City. The defense secretary was in town to give a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. A group of "America Supports You" grassroots supporters, including Wareing, later attended a summit meeting for the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

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

Prior to speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations, the secretary talked with participants attending a summit meeting of the Defense Department's America Supports You program.

"It is something that the troops really do appreciate," Rumsfeld said of the volunteers' work. He also expressed his "thanks to people like you that make a decision and do it."

"Nothing is too good" for America's military, Mrs. Rumsfeld told the ASY volunteers later at the summit meeting at the America's Society building. "I love that I got the chance to be with you," she said.

Created about 13 months ago, America Supports You recognizes citizens' efforts to support U.S. servicemembers and their families. About 190 grassroots groups across the country now work with America Supports You, conducting citizens' letter-writing campaigns, mailing care packages and providing other services for deployed U.S. servicemembers and those serving at home.

A series of ASY summit meetings is being held in cities across the country. The first was held in Atlanta on Feb. 10. The next summit meeting is slated to be held in Chicago.

Jim Wareing, who runs the nonprofit group "New England Caring For Our Military" from Methuen, Mass., presented Rumsfeld with a copy of a patriotic-themed auto license plate.

People in the U.S. military are the best in the country, Wareing said in explaining why he works on behalf of ASY and other servicemembers' groups. "Without them, we wouldn't be here."

Wareing is working to get Massachusetts to adopt the plates. He said that's likely to occur, because he's finding no trouble obtaining the requisite 3,000 people to register for the new plates.

Allison Barber, the senior Pentagon official who oversees ASY, said that summit meetings like the one here are important because they give a personal touch to the program.

"If we stay in the Pentagon and never get out where the grassroots groups are actually doing the work," she explained, "then we will create some kind of bureaucratic program that won't help anybody."

Sue Langlie, executive director for education for the McLean (Va.) Bible Church and Ken Fitzgerald with the Susan Davis International marketing firm were guest speakers at the summit. Langlie discussed how to motivate volunteers, among other personnel topics.

"I think that there is something unique about volunteers," Langlie said, "because they're driven not by the money but by the purpose." And ASY's purpose "is so overwhelmingly wonderful," she said.

Fitzgerald talked about how ASY grassroots groups can work with the media to get their message out. Supporting the military, he said, cuts across political lines. Fitzgerald said most people "are looking for ways to participate" in troop-support programs.

"Supporting servicemembers supports our democratic way of life," Fitzgerald said.

During her address, Barber announced that the New York-based Ad Council will join the America Supports You program in one of several new ASY-related events slated this year.

The Ad Council will launch a nationwide ASY print and radio public service campaign that's scheduled to kick off during the first week of March, she said. This is the first time the Ad Council has supported a troop-oriented message campaign since the Korean War, she noted.

Barber announced some other America Supports You events slated for this year, including:

  • A nationwide Weekly Reader program for grade school age children that starts in April;
  • A Pentagon concert on May 5 featuring actor-musician Gary Sinese and his "Major Dan Band";
  • A May 6 welcome-home event for returning troops held at Camp Lejuene, N.C.;
  • An America Supports You-themed Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May; and
  • A Memorial Day parade down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.
About 2 million children in grades 3 through 6 will participate in the Weekly Reader program that will be available at 93,000 elementary schools, Barber said.

"The whole purpose of this campaign is to teach kids how to support the troops," Barber said. America Supports You, she emphasized, isn't a military recruiting campaign.

"It's a campaign that helps kids understand the value of serving their country," she said.

The Checkers fast-food chain also has joined the America Supports You team, Barber said, noting the firm will participate in promotions with ASY grassroots groups.

Last year's Pentagon Freedom Walk conducted to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was a huge success, Barber said. About 15,000 people participated in that event, she said, and plans are being made to have similar Freedom Walks in every state this fall.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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