First Lady, JCS Chairman Praise Service Members at Gala
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 10, 2003 The men and women of America's armed forces received a personal thank you from first lady Laura Bush and an award from a national media owners' and managers' group at a gala here June 9.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted the Guardian Award on behalf of all U.S. service members at the Service to America Summit dinner held at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington.
Sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation, the event was also part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, an ongoing DoD-public program that thanks service members for their contributions and sacrifices to the nation in the war against terrorism.
Mrs. Bush received NABEF's Leadership Award for her efforts in improving the lives of America's young people through early reading and learning programs.
However, "the most deserving award winners are the men and women of the United States military," the first lady declared to the audience.
Over the past year "the world witnessed the courage and the resolve of our military" during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mrs. Bush noted.
America's troops, she added, "have conducted themselves with compassion and we pray that they will return safely and soon."
Mrs. Bush and the Joint Chiefs chairman both received standing ovations from the audience when they were introduced. In his remarks, Myers thanked the foundation for the award and praised service members "for their dedication, their professionalism (and) their selfless service to our nation."
The four-star general then introduced, to a round of applause, five service members who'd accompanied him to the dinner: Army Pfc. Patrick Malone, a broadcaster with the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard); Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cara Hunt, a broadcaster with the Naval Media Center, Air National Guard Senior Airman Alex Smith, a military policeman with the 171st Air Refueling Wing; Marine Staff Sgt. Steven Williams, also a broadcaster at the Naval Media Center; and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick McNeilly, a member of the Coast Guard's Atlantic Strike Team.
Myers asserted that he and the nation "owe a debt of gratitude" to America's troops for their dedication, professionalism, and "the sacrifice that they're willing to make and not just their sacrifice, but the sacrifice of their families."
The four-star general observed that as JCS chairman he couldn't "be prouder" representing "not only these five (service members), but all our armed forces."
Smith, a Pittsburgh native who recently returned stateside after a tour of duty at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, noted it "was a real honor" to attend the dinner.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," the 19-year-old airman remarked, adding, "I'm only an E-4; to be able to meet a four-star general, especially Gen. Myers" was a definite thrill.