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America Supports You: Brooks and Dunn, Toyota Salute Troops

By Willard Thomas
Special to American Forces Press Service

DALLAS, Sept. 9, 2007 – More than 50 servicemembers not only enjoyed front-row seats at a Brooks and Dunn concert here last night, but also were guests at a backstage reception where they got a handshake and the personal thanks of the country music giants.

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Members of the 14th Marine Artillery Regiment stationed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base in Texas and Donald Esmond, senior vice president of Toyota and host of a party to honor America's troops, pose for a picture in Dallas, Sept. 8, 2007. They are from left to right in the front row, Lance Cpl. Justin Roberts, Sgt. Cory Rathbun, Cpl. Danny Stoddard, and in the front Cpl. Chad Hernandez, Esmond, Lance Cpl. Geoff Gaines and retired Marine Maj. Willard Thomas, who served in the regiment before the other members were born. Courtesy photo

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The tab for this special recognition event was picked up by Toyota Motor Sales USA, who invited the troops as part of becoming a corporate supporter of “America Supports You,” a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

The servicemembers topped off the evening as on-stage guests of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. The singers saluted them and all their military teammates with the song they use to end all of their concerts: “Only in America.”

The host for the event was Don Esmond, Toyota’s senior vice president of automotive operations, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Toyota’s affiliation with America Supports You is an expansion of an on-going commitment to troop support. The automaker already was involved with programs such as Hire-A-Hero, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and the Camp Pendleton Concert Series.

“We have a civic duty to keep our troops top of mind as they defend our freedoms, and Toyota is happy to help bring the America Supports You message to the public through these key, grassroots partnerships,” Esmond said.

Brooks and Dunn also are supporters of “America Supports You,” along with hundreds of other corporations and organizations.

(Willard Thomas is a retired Marine artillery officer who is a freelance writer for military publications and is writing a book about war.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDon Esmond, (left) senior vice president of Toyota and host of a party in Dallas to honor America's troops on Sept. 8, 2007, listens to stories from three members of a naval aviation unit stationed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. They are from left to right, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Libby, Petty Officer 1st Class Jenny Morrison and Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Smith. Courtesy photo  
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