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Servicemembers Honored at Awards Dinner

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2005 – Six servicemembers were lauded for their distinguished military service at a Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs dinner here Dec. 12.

The servicemembers received the Grateful Nation Award, which JINSA established three years ago to express appreciation for the men and women of the armed forces.

Each military branch and U.S. Special Operations Command chose one person to be honored. All the award recipients distinguished themselves by exceptional service and an outstanding demonstration of the values of their service branches, Norman Hascoe, the organization's president, said.

David Steinmann, chairman of the JINSA board of advisers, presented the awards and said that in this time of war, America needs people like the awardees to sustain the national will to win.

"In short, America needs heroes," Steinmann said. "We are beyond fortunate tonight, because we are recognizing six people like that here tonight. They represent everything America wants and needs in our uniformed services."

He called the awardees "the very best people our country produces."

"In addition to shouldering the burdens and responsibilities that come with the uniforms they wear," Steinmann said, "they also have to shoulder the additional, unsought and sometimes unwanted burden of being our heroes."

Award recipients at the dinner were:

  • Marine Staff Sgt. Mark H. Graunke Jr.;
  • Navy Lt. Walter H. Allman III;
  • Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Dwoskin;
  • Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Beach; and
  • Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Kyle.

Also honored was Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who was given the award posthumously. Smith earned the Medal of Honor after being killed while defending his troops outside Baghdad on April 4, 2003, in the first weeks of the Iraqi war. Smith's widow, Birgit, accepted the award on his behalf. Birgit addressed the crowd, thanking them for the award and honor for her husband.

She offered her own message of support for the troops. "I want the world to know that we, the families and fellow Americans, continue to support them in their courageous effort to bring about democracy to people that have suffered under choking tyranny," she said.

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs is a nonprofit, nonpartisan and nonsectarian educational organization committed to explaining the need for a prudent national security policy for the U.S., addressing the security requirements of both the U.S. and Israel, and strengthening the strategic cooperation relationship between the two countries.

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