DoD Launches 'America Supports You' to Showcase Support for Troops
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 The Defense Department launched a new program today to showcase America's support for the men and women of the armed forces and the myriad ways the country is expressing that support.
Allision Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for
public affairs, right, gives "America Supports You" dog tags to Shauna Fleming,
second from left, who launched a letter-writing campaign to express
appreciation to deployed troops, and her family members during the "America
Supports You" kickoff at the Pentagon, Nov. 19. Photo by Betsy
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"America Supports You" is designed to gather information about the many activities and programs Americans have launched to show support for the troops and most importantly, to ensure they and their families know about it, Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told Pentagon reporters today.
Abell said communicating America's support for servicemembers and their families is a big morale booster for "those who are fighting to defend our freedom" and communicates America's "recognition and appreciation of the courage and commitment of those who serve."
Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Americans have come together as never before, united in their resolve against their terrorist enemies, Abell said. "And in the three years since Sept. 11, 2001, throughout our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the world, the American people have stood solidly behind our military personnel, both men and women, and their families," he said.
That support spans every segment of society from individuals and families to schools to local communities to major, multinational corporations, Abell said, "all doing their part to show their appreciation for the dedication and sacrifice of America's fighting forces."
But despite the outpouring of support, said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, servicemembers aren't always aware of it. "We've heard troops in the field asking if Americans are still supporting them," she said, "and we were determined to be able to answer that question in a meaningful way."
The America Supports You program will ensure servicemembers know about their many acts of gratitude including activities conducted at the local level, said Barber, who will run the program.
The program encourages people to visit a Web site and share details about their project or activity. By doing so, they can sign up to receive a military-style dog tag with the "America Supports You" logo that provides a tangible symbol of their support.
At today's kickoff event, Abell noted that the initiatives under way run the gamut. Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, a brother-sister team in Massachusetts, have used their "Cell Phones for Soldiers" program to buy prepaid calling cards so deployed servicemembers can call home.
Another organization formed to build or renovate homes for disabled veterans returning home from Southwest Asia.
Other groups set up programs so children of deployed troops could listen to or watch their mom or dad read bedtime stories to them.
Home Depot donated tools and materials so families could repair and maintain their homes during their loved ones' deployment. Starbucks donated coffee to give troops in Southwest Asia a taste of home. The list goes on and on, Abell said.
James Mueller, senior vice commander in chief for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, knows personally how important it is for deployed servicemembers to know that their country is behind them. An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, he remembers how difficult it was to be thousands of miles from home, in harm's way, without the full support of many of his countrymen.
"We never want that to happen to our troops again," he said at today's America Support You kickoff.
To ensure it doesn't, VFW posts nationwide are involved in sending care packages and supplies to troops overseas and helping families on the home front through a program that helps pay for things like groceries or emergency appliance repairs.
Edward Powell Jr., president and chief executive officer of the United Service Organizations, shares Mueller's memories of the Vietnam era and vows never to let it happen again.
"Our goal is to make sure the men and women who signed up to protect us know that they are appreciated and that we haven't forgotten them," he said.
To that end, Operation USO Care Package has sent more than 400,000 care packages to give deployed troops a taste of home, and the USO sponsors other programs and services for servicemembers and their families.
Powell said he hopes America Supports You gives Americans who want to support the troops, but don't know how, a way to show their appreciation.
"Sometimes the words 'thank you' just don't seem adequate when considering the tremendous sacrifices servicemembers are making for their country," he said. "But we're focused on the incredible power of 'thank you' and we see this program as a way of expressing that to the men and women so deserving of it."