America Supports You: Grassroots Groups Help Pentagon Celebrate
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2007 Twenty-eight America Supports You home-front support groups converged on the Pentagon today to share information about their organizations with the men and women who work inside the building during the U.S. military headquarters kick-off ceremony for Military Appreciation Month.
Gwen Brown, national legislative lirector for the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign War, shares information about her organization during an American Supports You Ceremony, May 4, 2007, in honor of Military Appreciation Month, inside the courtyard of the Pentagon. Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW help active duty military personnel and veterans and their families stay in touch by sending care packages to troops. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly Burgess
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that works to connect its more than 250 grassroots groups with members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.
“These folks are doing more for our troops than I can express in words,” said Navy Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, Joint Staff director for command, control, communications and computer systems, during her welcome remarks at the ceremony. “To give them gratitude for their sacrifices, from making direct financial contributions to buying airline tickets to making clothes for those that have come back … for their contributions and their sacrifices in supporting our troops. Thank you all very much.”
Not only did the grassroots groups voice their support to the uniformed employees of the building, they also used the time to educate those who will be taking charge of troops in the future.
A lot of people don’t know what’s available to them, said Pat Stradley, family director of “USA Cares.” “We get many referrals from unit commanders.”
USA Cares provides financial assistance to military members and their families. Within the last three years the organization has assisted nearly 6,000 servicemembers by providing $3.4 million in funds and $1.2 million in alternative resources.
“Some of the stories we hear are heartbreaking,” Stradley said, “but we really love what we do.”
“It’s very important to connect community groups with military families,” said Caroline Peabody, who is the president of the Military Family Network, an organization that works to educate servicemembers on the benefits offered to them by state and federal agencies. “Our community connection program identifies neighborhoods that are reaching out to help military members and their families.”
Many of the America Supports You home-front groups used the time in the Pentagon’s courtyard to network with each other.
“There is no one group that can take care of all the needs of the troops and their families,” said “Operation First Response” co-founder Peggy Baker. “By getting to know each other and what our specialties are, we can better help the troops. We end up touching each others’ lives.”
From providing financial assistance to servicemembers and recycling cell phones in order to purchase phone cards to providing comfort and relief items for hospitalized troops and providing custom-made clothing for wounded warriors, a vast array of services were represented during the festivities.
“The most important thing for people to know about those of us out here is that we’re here to support the troops,” said Debbie Rupert, from “Operation Quiet Comfort.” “It’s also important for troops to know that, no matter what, we support them.”