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America Supports You: PGA Tour Honored For Supporting Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 12, 2006 – The Defense Department today honored the PGA Tour organization and its network of affiliated golf clubs for their exemplary support of U.S. servicemembers.

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Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, left, reads the inscription on a plaque before she presents it to PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem during an employee meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Dec. 12. The Defense Department honored the PGA Tour organization and its network of affiliated golf clubs for exemplary support of U.S. servicemembers through DoD's America Supports You program. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

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PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem accepted a special framed plaque signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld from Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison.

Barber said before the presentation that Finchem’s organization was the first corporate sponsor of the America Supports You program, a nationwide DoD program that recognizes citizens’ support for military men and women deployed worldwide in the global war on terrorism.

“You have become a model program for the America Supports You program,” Barber told Finchem, noting 34 corporations are now ASY partners thanks to his organization’s efforts.

The PGA Tour-America Supports You partnership provided a new platform to tell even more people about how they can help support U.S. servicemembers, she said. “That gave us an opportunity to reach out to corporate America to say: ‘You have a role to play. You can help,’” Barber said

ASY also boasts 238 grassroots groups nationwide, she said.

ASY is a most worthy cause, Finchem said, noting his organization raised $1.2 million this year for U.S. servicemembers and their families. “Our people feel privileged to be involved with America Supports You,” Finchem said. “They get a tremendous, positive feeling being able to help a little bit.

“It creates an excitement that they’re doing something to help these guys and the women who are putting their lives on the line.”

Barber told the audience about Marine Cpl. Joshua C. Watkins, who recently died at age 25 during his second tour in Iraq. Barber then introduced Watkins’ mother, Amy Vazquez, who received deafening applause from the 700-plus people in attendance.

Amy, a 51-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., mortgage broker, shared her feelings about the loss of her only son, who died Oct. 21, after being shot by a sniper near Fallujah. “He was a hero,” Vazquez said of her son.

She urged Americans to be patient about the war against terrorism. “This is not a war that is going to won quickly,” she said. “Terrorism is as big a threat as the threat of nuclear weaponry in the wrong hands.”

Vazquez said another terrorist attack on the United States could occur if global terrorism isn’t confronted and defeated. “Do you want another 9/11? Because that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t stop them,” she said.

Vazquez proudly wears her son’s Purple Heart Medal daily. She received $10,000 from the PGA Tour organization to be used for a military scholarship program that’s named after her son and administered by the University of North Florida.

“I’m totally excited about what America Supports You is doing for the troops,” Vazquez said.

She also praised David A. Pillsbury, president of the PGA Tour golf course properties, who had approached Vazquez to offer the scholarship donation.

Pillsbury said he’d met Vazquez at a recent mortgage brokers’ conference in Jacksonville, where she talked about the death of her son. After Vazquez stepped down from the podium, Pillsbury said, he approached her and offered his condolences, as well as a $10,000 donation on behalf of the PGA Tour for the scholarship fund.

“We’re so honored and so proud to support Amy in her efforts to create a legacy for her son that will help other men and women in uniform who want to continue their educations,” Pillsbury said.

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America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAmy Vazquez, left, and friend Kathryn Fernandez Fuller pose for a photo at the PGA Tour employees' summit meeting held in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Dec. 12. Vazquez's son, Marine Cpl. Joshua C. Watkins, was killed Oct. 21 at age 25 while on duty near Fallujah, Iraq. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore   
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