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England Meets, Thanks ‘Why We Serve’ Participants

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2007 – Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England today thanked a group of servicemembers who have completed nationwide speaking tours as part of the “Why We Serve” public-outreach program.

Since the draft ended in 1973, the average American has had diminishing experience with members of the military, England told the servicemembers in his Pentagon office.

With U.S. troops deployed worldwide in support of the war on terrorism, it is especially vital that Why We Serve participants “go out and make that contact” with the American people, he said.

“This is the best military we’ve ever had. The all-volunteer force is terrific,” said England, as he thanked the servicemembers and provided each with his personal coin.

“At the end of the day, we rely on the support of the American people,” observed England, who also wished the servicemembers a happy holiday season.

“Thanks for representing America and representing your services. You did a great job for us,” he said.

Why We Serve participant Marine 1st Lt. Tabitha B. White, an Iraq veteran, said she enjoyed meeting England and telling her story to the public.

“Meeting the deputy defense secretary is a wonderful experience,” White said. “The American public wants to hear our stories, and they are so supportive.”

White, who returned from a tour in Iraq in August, said audiences often asked her if she had any interaction with Iraqi citizens. “I did get to meet an Iraqi civilian while I was over there. She was volunteering at the hospital. She was just grateful to have that opportunity to volunteer and help her country,” White recalled.

White also remembered when formerly violent areas became pacified during her eight-month tour of duty in northeastern Iraq. “It was really violent and hostile. And, now, they are opening hospitals and schools, and all of their sheikhs are meeting together to try to figure out a better way to run their country,” White recalled.

Another Iraq veteran and Why We Serve participant, recently promoted Marine Sgt. Sean M. Henry, said he was pleased to meet England and is proud of his participation in the program.

“It’s outstanding, what this program is doing, getting out and interacting with the American people. That’s priceless,” Henry emphasized.

Other members of the fifth group of Why We Serve participants include: Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Bruce Binda, Army Maj. Cedric L. Burden, Marine Staff Sgt. John Costa, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark A. DeCorte, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sivenson Guerrier, Army Sgt. Jose J. Munoz, and Air Force Maj. Marcia A. Potter. Munoz wasn’t able to meet England today because of his pending deployment to Afghanistan.

Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace started the Why We Serve program in 2006. The program is conducted in quarterly segments and participants perform 90-day duty tours talking to schools, veterans organizations and business groups across the United States.

The sixth Why We Serve group of servicemembers assembles in January, and it will be the largest group since the program began, said Marine Maj. Chris Devine, the Why We Serve program director. The new group, Devine said, will consist of 12 servicemembers representing the military service branches.

“All of the Why We Serve participants have done a great job,” Devine said.

Why We Serve continues to improve, Devine said. The program, he noted, is “one more way for us to provide information to the American people about what it is these young men and women are doing in the global war on terrorism.”

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