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"Uncle Sam Wants You" to Join the Operation Tribute to Freedom Team

By Denise Brown
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2003 – "Uncle Sam Wants You" is a familiar recruiting slogan to generations of Americans. But in this case, it's an invitation for all Americans to sign up for a different kind of military operation.

Operation Tribute to Freedom, a Defense Department initiative, is a way for Americans to show their continuing support for the nation's military men and women and share with the Defense Department the different ways in which individuals and communities are expressing this support.

"We receive calls and emails all the time asking, 'What can I do to support the troops?'" said Allison Barber, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. "People want to know what they can do to help."

Americans across the country are already involved in activities showing support for the men and women in uniform, Barber said. "If you're flying the flag, going to a parade, writing an e-mail to the troops or visiting the DefendAmerica.mil Web site to send a thank you to the troops, all of these activities are part of Operation Tribute to Freedom."

Many individual groups have started their own grassroots campaigns or outreach campaigns for the troops, she said. Operation Tribute to Freedom is a way to bring these individuals, groups and companies together as part of one team.

"You're already doing the activities, so join the team and keep supporting the troops," Barber said, adding that joining the team is an ideal way for Americans to stay connected with men and women in uniform.

"To join the team, just go to our Operation Tribute to Freedom Web site on www.DefendAmerica.mil, select 'Join the Team,' fill in your name, and tell us what you're doing to pay tribute to the men and women of the military. Once you submit your registration to the team, you'll be able to download an Operation Tribute to Freedom certificate, making you an official member of the team."

The program includes a variety of suggestions on how communities and individuals can support the troops. "We have activities and ideas that are geared for both children and adults," Barber explained. "Younger children can color a patriotic picture or send an e-mail to the troops.

"Older teens and adults can volunteer at their local Red Cross or local veterans organization, visit injured veterans in a veterans hospital or donate money to Operation Uplink for the purchase of a phone card for a service member. There are activities for all ages," Barber added.

The Web site also contains a selection of downloadable Operation Tribute to Freedom graphics. The graphics can be used as posters, on T-shirts or as banners, "in whatever way people want to use their imaginations," Barber added. "And that's the strength of Operation Tribute to Freedom."

Although the Web site includes specific ideas for activities to support the troops, people are probably going to come up with more ideas, Barber said. She asks people to "share with us what you're doing and join the team."

Barber is also working with the Weekly Reader, a publication for elementary and secondary school children. "Weekly Reader goes out to over 7 million children in classrooms throughout America," Barber said. Operation Tribute to Freedom will be featured on the Weekly Reader Web site and also in the Weekly Reader distribution during the school year.

"Corporate America has been great in supporting the troops and we're reaching out to them as well, inviting them as a corporation to join the team," Barber said. "Operation Tribute to Freedom is a multifaceted campaign that reaches individuals of every age, non-profit organizations, corporate America and schools. It's a very far reaching campaign."

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