America Supports You: ASYMCA Honors Service to Troops, Families
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 13, 2005 A highway construction company owner was honored on Capitol Hill on May 12 as the Armed Services YMCA's "Volunteer of the Year" for his support of servicemembers and their families at Fort Riley, Kan., and surrounding areas.
Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, praised the young men and women in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the war on global terrorism during his keynote speech May 12 at the Armed Services YMCA's annual recognition luncheon on Capitol Hill. Jumper also praised people who spend hundreds of hours volunteering to support ASYMCA programs that show young servicemembers that someone cares and want to help. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
John Trygg, president and chief executive officer of Konza Construction Company of Junction City, Kan., and his wife, Gaile, were honored during the ASYMCA's 18th Annual recognition luncheon in the Cannon House Office Building. Sponsored by General Dynamics, the invitation-only luncheon saluted volunteers who donated hundreds of hours of their time supporting ASYMCA program across the country. It also saluted the best programs run by ASYMCA branches and affiliates.
Guests included members of Congress, top-ranking military and civilian officials from the Defense Department, captains of industry and ASYMCA employees and volunteers from around the country.
Also participating in the ceremony were retired Navy Rear Adm. S. Frank Gallo, national ASYMCA executive director, and retired Army Maj. Gen. Donald Infante, ASYMCA's board chairman.
This year's keynote speaker was Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, who praised the young men and women who are in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the war on global terrorism. Jumper also praised people who spend hundreds of hours volunteering to support ASYMCA programs that show young servicemembers that someone cares and wants to help.
Jumper said the ASYMCA benefits thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. "The Armed Services YMCA does a lot of good," the four-star general emphasized. "The good they do is about promoting values -- core values. And it's about bringing our young people along (so that) they're committed to something larger than themselves, so that they are citizens of integrity and honor. That's what this organization does. We thank all of you with the ASYMCA that help us all do the right thing for our people in uniform."
Highlights of the luncheon included the presentation of the ASYMCA's Military Family Congressional Champion Award to U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the ranking member of the Projection Forces Subcommittee. He also serves as co-chairman of the House National Guard, Reserve and Coast Guard caucuses.
The top Raytheon program achievement award was presented to the ASYMCA at Marine Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., for its "Crafty Campers" program, which focuses on artistic development in children ages 2 to 7. The branch received a $10,000 award from Raytheon.
Two Seattle-area ASYMCA branches also earned Raytheon awards for programs serving families of enlisted military personnel. The Kitsap Family YMCA in Bremerton won the "Best Use of Volunteers" award for its "Selective Swim" program, which helps handicapped youth learn to swim. The Whidbey Island ASYMCA in Oak Harbor won the "Most Innovative Improvement" award for its full-day kindergarten program. The awards earned the branches $4,500 grants from Raytheon.
Affiliate YMCAs from six regions across the country also were recognized with awards for their outstanding programs serving families of enlisted personnel.
Trygg said he's humbled to be named the ASYMCA Volunteer of the Year "because it's not only me, it's the entire community." He said the community held fund-raisers, an "adopt a company" program and a number of other troop-support initiatives for the past 10 years.
"I try to help the families with some of their extraordinary needs and send packages to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan monthly," said Trygg, an executive board member of the Fort Riley Chapter of the Association of the United States Army. "The packages include beef jerky, a Slovenian walnut sweet bread called 'povitca,' and a host of other goodies."
Citing an example of "extraordinary needs" some military families experience, Trygg recalled driving home for lunch one day and seeing a woman at the side of the road who looked like she needed help.
"She said her car quit running, and showed me her three kids in the car," said Trygg, who holds numerous patents for heavy machinery that have modernized the highway construction process. "So I got a mechanic to look at her car and then got hold of a local dealership and they fixed her car - free!"
He said the woman was disturbed because her husband had just gone to Iraq. "She didn't have any money," Trygg recalled. "She couldn't get hold of the family support group. So we said, 'We'll take care of it,' and got her car fixed."
On a larger scale, Trygg arranged with Wal-Mart transportation to haul about 15 tractor-trailer loads of products for families of deployed servicemembers at various collection points -- soap, deodorant, dolls and many other items.
Trygg also raised money for a monument that was dedicated at Fort Riley in October. "It's a twin towers made out of granite and shaped like the Pentagon," he said. "It will be rededicated every Sept. 11 until the global war on terrorism is over."
In the past three years, Trygg has collaborated with Procter and Gamble to donate nearly 600,000 pounds of promotional products to deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and to their families in the Fort Riley area. He also helped to start an "Adopt a Platoon" program that sponsors Army units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The program has gained nationwide recognition. Konza Construction has sponsored more than 2,500 soldiers since the program started, he said.
ASYMCA officials said since the beginning of the terror war, Trygg has spearheaded local efforts to provide support for wounded soldiers assigned to Fort Riley, which has resulted in donations of more than $82,000 for the Wounded Soldier Fund.
In 2004, Trygg coordinated the pick-up and delivery of more than 7,000 individual packages from Kirkland, Wash., to Junction City, Kan., that served as Christmas presents for troops engaged in the war against terrorism.
"He doesn't like to be recognized," Gaile Trygg said of her husband. "He just likes to be behind the scenes doing things. But this is a great honor for him."
Six students who participate in the ASYMCA's "Operation Hero" at the Fort Belvoir (Va.) Elementary School presented large plaques to corporate sponsors. The plaques were made up of children's artwork from the ASYMCA's 2004 annual art contest affixed to ceramic tiles.
"I feel quite privileged that the children are being honored today," said their principal, Jane Wilson. "They represent our student body at Fort Belvoir Elementary School, and they all participate in the Operation Hero program. They were selected by their teachers."
Wilson said Operation Hero is an after-school program during which the students meet twice a week for two hours to do homework, have lessons on self-concept, work on a craft, participate in an activity and have a snack.
"It helps students adjust to a military lifestyle," Wilson noted.
Operation Hero aids children from 6 to 12 who are experiencing temporary difficulty in school, both socially and academically, which can result from frequent moves and family disruptions due to deployments. The semester-long program provides after-school tutoring and mentoring in small groups with certified teachers.
Since the Civil War, the Armed Services YMCA has provided educational, recreational, social and spiritual programs to military members and their families. The ASYMCA, an affiliate of the YMCA of the USA with headquarters in Alexandria, Va., has more than 150 program locations around the world.