Bush Meets with America Supports You Groups at White House
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 26, 2006 President Bush met with representatives from 14 grassroots troop support groups at the White House today to talk about how they can best support America's servicemembers.
Members of the Defense Department's America Supports You grassroots organizations, including actor Gary Sinise (back, right), meet with President Bush in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, June 26. Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band have entertained the troops on numerous USO tours. The actor is also cofounder of the Operation Iraqi Children, which sends school supplies to Iraqi children. Photo by William D. Moss
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I have just had a remarkable discussion with some of my fellow citizens who have dedicated their lives to making sure our troops know that this country supports them as they help secure our country and spread freedom," Bush said at a news conference after the meeting.
The president mentioned America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting grassroots and corporate support for the nation's military members and their families. He invited Americans to go to the ASY Web site at www.americasupportsyou.mil to find more on how they can support the nation's servicemembers.
"I told the folks here that the politics in Washington can be rough," Bush said about the meeting. "They need to tell the troops that no matter how tough it looks here in the nation's capital, that I know we're doing the right thing, and I know we will win."
Actor Gary Sinise, whose nonprofit organization "Operation Iraqi Children" gives school supplies to Iraqi kids, said today was a terrific meeting.
"The president was very, very grateful to everyone here," Sinise said. "It boosts the morale for everyone here. Some have lost sons and husbands, and just knowing that he's aware of the program and wants to do everything he can to support the program and get the word out -- that's the important thing."
Sinise said the representatives got the chance to bring up some concerns, such as problems with shipping supplies overseas. Sinise's charity ships its goods to Iraq by boat, and the journey takes over a month.
"We have needs, and we're always looking for better ways to do things," he said, adding that the president seemed receptive to their concerns.
Emily Dieruf, of "USA Cares," said the most solid message coming out of the meeting was one of simple and unwavering support for the troops. She said she hopes people will visit the America Supports You Web site and learn more about how to show their support.
"For me, I think it hits especially close to the heart because I lost my husband in Iraq in April 2004," she said. "I was bound and determined to meet the president after his death. ... This is a very exciting, emotional day for me to be here, and I'm honored to be included in this group."
Dieruf said her husband was fighting for something the whole family believed in. While she knew it was a possibility that he might not come home, the reality hit her hard, especially as she received five letters from him after his death because of the mail delay. "All those emotions are kind of running through me today," she said.
USA Cares provides grants to military families that need help with what Dieruf called "quality of life issues," such as paying the mortgage, paying utility bills and getting food on the table. Helping those families means a lot to her, she said. "We will take care of our guys and gals that are taking care of us."
Leo Pacheco, director of "Operation Hope," the military outreach program of the "Beacon of Hope" outreach center in Aurora, Colo., said he receives messages from the troops all the time asking whether America's leaders really care about them.
"They really want to know, is it for real," Pacheco said. "The president was very genuine about conveying the message to us that he is very resolute in what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is very appreciative of all that we have done ... as part of America Supports You, and supporting the troops and conveying the message."
Pacheco said his group, which is based in the Denver area, will be holding a freedom walk Sept. 9 to show the troops their support as directly as possible.
"The freedom walk is an exciting time for us to really communicate the message to our troops that we do support them, and we as citizens are collectively gathering to support all of our troops," he said. "We are really hoping that we'll have even a live connection somewhere to Iraq or Afghanistan so that we can convey the message without it going through other media channels. ... We really want to send that message ourselves and say, 'We're here, we support you, and we appreciate what you're doing.'"
These troop supporters also attended the meeting:
- Linda Patterson, America Supporting Americans
- Thomas Kilgannon, Freedom Alliance
- Andi Grant, Give 2 the Troops
- Michelle Williams, Little Patriots Embraced
- Robert McDowell, Operation Ensuring Christmas
- Peggy Baker, Operation First Response
- Mary Harper, Operation Shoebox
- Becky Mizener, Packed with Pride
- Betty Mohlenbrook, United Through Reading
- Romey Kilgore, United We Serve
- John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project