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Spirit of Hope Award

Thanks, Mike, for that suitably short introduction, and for all you do for all of us who work here in the pentagon.

Good morning everybody.  It’s a real pleasure to be here today, representing secretary carter, to recognize a select group of americans who have given their time and hearts supporting the magnificent men and women who serve their country with such skill and sacrifice in our armed forces and department of defense. 

Today we present each of them with the spirit of hope award, named after an american  icon—bob hope—who as an international star in entertainment spent most of his adult life supporting troops around the world.  Mike has spoken eloquently about bob hope so let me just say a few brief words about this american hero.  

Beginning in may 1941, and continuing for nearly fifty years, bob hope brought his variety show to military camps and war zones across the globe to entertain the troops and provide them a brief escape from the trials of the battlefield.
Flying millions of miles, he headlined 57 uso tours from world war ii, korea, vietnam, desert storm, and installations around the world, most often over christmas.  But hope always believed he gained far more from his performances for the uso than he gave.  And he sure did love the troops.  “i hate war with all my guts,” hope told a crowd in 1971, “but i admire the guys with guts enough to fight them when they have to be fought.”

He was also fearless.  War correspondent quentin reynolds wrote in 1943, “one of the generals said hope was a first rate military target since he was worth a division… presumably the nazis appreciated hope's value, since three times they bombed towns while hope was there." but if being a target ever bothered mr. Hope, it never showed…

His humor was universal, his comedic timing impeccable, his self-deprecating jokes a trademark style, and his generosity boundless.  As bob hope said: “if you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

Well none of these people we honor today have that kind of heart trouble.  In fact, each of these honorees epitomizes the values of bob hope: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication.   And each has selflessly contributed an extraordinary amount of time, talent, and resources to enhance the quality of life to service members and their family members serving around the world. 

I think most americans realize just how good our military is.  But i’m not so sure they understand the sacrifice that those who serve have given in the service of their country.  The department of defense has the most important job in america—to defend our country, its constitution, its citizens, our interests and allies, friends and partners,  and our very way of life.  And make no mistake, this is a full time, difficult, and dangerous job.

I like to tell audiences that the cold war ended on may 12, 1989, when president george herbert walker bush stated that containment would no longer be the lens through which defense strategy and the defense program would be judged.  And in the 27 years since, the united states has been at war more than it has been at peace.  There simply is no other period in history where our military has been called upon so much over such an extended length of time.  Moreover, the armed forces that have responded to the nation’s call, time and time again, have all been volunteers, and increasingly married, having to juggle the demands of both service and family. As a marine artilleryman, husband, and father, i understand the burden this has placed on the service men and women in uniform, as well as their families.  

And anybody—from any walk of life—who takes time and effort to ease their burden, or just lift their spirits, is a true american hero in my book.

Which brings me to a particularly distinct group of american heroes, who, through their efforts, embodied the magnificent spirt of bob hope in their kind, generous and heartfelt support to our troops all over the world.  They are: 

American country artist kellie pickler and her husband, american country songwriter kyle jacobs – i think most remember kelley as a contestant on american idol who became a country and television star.  And although you might not immediately recognize kyle, he co-wrote “more than a memory” with garth brooks—the first song ever to debut at number one on billboard’s country singles chart.  Together, they have channeled bob hope’s uso spirit to more than 60 military bases and 2 aircraft carriers.  They even raised money for uso by appearing on “family feud.” 

Retired army col jennifer pritzker – founder of the pritzker military museum & research library in chicago, who has made generous contributions to the development of future army officers and other service members and veterans through the philanthropy of her corporation.  
Marc tarter – who spent the past seven years working as an advocate for seriously wounded explosive ordinance disposal (eod) marines, spending evenings, weekends, and holidays in hospitals assisting and comforting these brave souls.  From one marine to another, let me say semper fi.  Mr tarter could not be here today.  Receiving the award on his behalf is bryan woods.

Retired air force senior master serteant timothy bryant – who as commander of vfw post 3000, he led fundraising efforts that supported outreach to over 12,500 veterans and their families in california.  Due to his efforts, 32 indigent veterans and their families were saved from homelessness.   

Retired coast guard commander michael smith – who has worked for years supporting the mission and important roles of our coast guard men and women in our nation’s security and supporting coast guard families in western michigan.  

And finally, debi demick, who is accepting the award on behalf of the horses helping heroes project, a non-profit that brings together skilled horses and a wonderfully dedicated group of volunteers to help empower and improve the lives of military veterans dealing with the burden of mental, emotional, and physical wounds.
In closing, let me quote from one of my heroes, winston churchill, who said: “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Each of this year’s recipients have selflessly given from their hearts to make for others a richer, more enjoyable life, and in the process they have secured for themselves an extraordinary life full of meaning, purpose, and one that is so much bigger than themselves.   

So, on behalf of secretary carter, myself, all men and women who have served in uniform, past or present, and a grateful nation, let me thank and commend each of you for everything you have done and continue to do to lift the spirits and burdens who those who sacrifice so much for their country. 

I would also like to recognize and commend bob hope’s family, who make this award possible, and to pass on their sincere thanks to each of the recipients. For the very first time, members of the family were unable to attend today's event.  They are attending the opening of a new exhibit in cleveland, ohio-- called "bob hope - an american treasure." cleveland was bob's hometown, growing up there when his family moved from england in 1907.  This is the only reason—and a fitting one indeed—that they are not here with us today.
God bless you all.