America Supports You: Retired Army General Praises Military Family Support Programs
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2006 Military support programs like America Supports You are vitally important to servicemembers, their families and the nation, a celebrated retired Army general said recently.
It is paramount “to recognize the [military] spouses and the children, and their part they play in our national defense,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy said at the “Operation Christmas” event held Dec. 20 at the National Guard armory in Hinesville, Ga.
“Americans need to know that we are taking care of the families. And, sometimes, I think that they imagine these families are on their own, and they’re not. They’re part of a very warm and complete family, the bigger family of the military,” Kennedy said.
In 1997, Kennedy became the first woman in the U.S. Army to attain the rank of lieutenant general and only the third woman in the military to hold three-star rank. She served in the Pentagon as the Army’s top intelligence officer until her retirement in 2000.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that showcases the efforts of American individuals, non-profit groups and corporations in supporting military men and women.
America Supports You corporate team member Wal-Mart partnered with non-profit member Operation Homefront, an organization that provides assistance to military families while servicemembers are deployed, to conduct Operation Christmas. The Hinesville, Ga., event was the last of a series of six Operation Christmases held this year.
Kennedy is a member of a three-person Wal-Mart panel that provides the corporation employment-practices advice. The worldwide retail chain and the U.S. Army, including its active, Guard and reserve components, both employ more than 1.5 million people, she said.
Kennedy said Wal-Mart not only supports the military, it also respects the military's personnel practices.
“We have systems in the Army that help make sure that selection for promotions, commands and schooling is done in a very fair way, based on merit,” Kennedy said. “And, I think Wal-Mart is interested in some of that experience.”
In Hinesville, Kennedy observed soldier-volunteers from nearby Fort Stewart doing their best to make children happy as they sat on Santa’s lap and received Christmas gifts.
“If they see that a child looks a little disappointed, they keep trying new gifts until they bring the one that brings a smile,” she said.
Kennedy also attended two other Operation Christmas events held earlier this month in Gulfport, Miss., and San Antonio, Texas. Other Operation Christmas events were held in November in communities near Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the naval station in Norfolk, Va. Another Operation Christmas was held Dec. 2 near MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.