America Supports You: Department Honors Radio’s ‘Dr. Laura’
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2007 Radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger is used to millions of people listening to her. Today, however, it was her turn to listen, as Defense Department officials acknowledged her support of America’s servicemembers.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England (left) presents radio personality Laura Schlessinger (right) with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service on July 30, 2007, at the Pentagon. Schlessinger was recognized for her efforts to raise public awareness of, and funding for, troop-support group “Operation Family Fund.” Photo by Cherie Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England thanked “Dr. Laura” as he presented Schlessinger with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service in a brief ceremony at the Pentagon. The award cited her work to raise awareness of and financial support for a California-based nonprofit group, “Operation Family Fund.”
“On behalf of the Department of Defense and everybody who serves in the Department of Defense and the American people, I just want to say, ‘thank you for your great work,’” England said.
England also thanked Operation Family Fund’s founder, Mike Cash, for his work supporting military families. “Thank you also for your great work directly benefiting these great men and women who need help, deserve help and appreciate (what you do),” he said.
Operation Family Fund provides financial assistance to families of military personnel severely injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group also is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
Schlessinger said she was touched to receive the honor, but that her actions were simply to offer “support, morally and physically, … to these people with this extraordinary attitude.”
“But it’s nice to get some recognition, … and hopefully it motivates other people when they see how involved I am,” she added. “Normally, you do what you need to do, and you don’t’ give a lot of thought to, ‘Gee, I’m going to get a ribbon for it.’”
Schlessinger has another reason to support the troops that’s even nearer to her heart.
“My kidlet’s in Afghanistan,” she said of her son, who is deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division. “I wouldn’t have understood as much as I do now (if it weren’t for him). So I’ve taken it as my personal responsibility to get everybody up to speed.”
The radio personality’s troop-support efforts include ensuring her nearly 8 million listeners know about Operation Family Fund. She also has raised more than a half million dollars for the organization.
She also has spoken with managers at the newspaper for which she writes a twice-weekly column, the Santa Barbara News-Press, in Santa Barbara, Calif., about hiring former servicemembers. “These are smart people, mature people, focused people, disciplined people who should be hired as reporters,” Schlessinger said. “So if anybody’s interested in coming to Santa Barbara, Calif., … there’s a job waiting for you.”
Cash, who represented Operation Family Fund at the ceremony, offered his praise for Schlessinger’s work on behalf of his organization. When Schlessinger talks, people listen, he said. And lately, that has equated to more help for the families the organization serves, he added.
“There (are) a lot of great people out there that want to help but don’t know how to help,” he said. “Dr. Laura has been able to channel those people into Operation Family Fund and say, ‘Look, you want to help a great cause? Here’s what you do.’”