WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 — For 70 years, the USO and its thousands of volunteers have stood as a compass for the nation and adapted to the needs of every war Americans have fought, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said last night at the organization’s 29th annual awards dinner.
“To the thousands and thousands of volunteers who still make a difference, to those who serve and to our military families — and I speak for the 2.2 million men and women who serve — thank you, and keep up the great work,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told members of the USO in an audience of 500 people at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City.
“As we sit down and enjoy the evening — and I know this is on everybody’s mind — we should remember the sun is rising in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mullen said. “As we speak, we have tens of thousands of military men and women who are putting their lives in harm’s way, and they are the ones who afford us the opportunity to spend a few moments together [tonight].”
The chairman said he’s greatly appreciative of public and corporate support for service members and their families during the past decade at war. “I just ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” he told the audience.
Mullen praised the “many special people here who care a lot about our troops — professional football players, announcers, wrestlers, entertainers, business men and women. “I’d like to express my appreciation to each and every one of you,” the chairman added. Mullen also saluted the defense industry for its support of the military.
“I’ve seen that [support of the military] in our defense industry for decades,” the chairman said. “When I visit the plants, they are truly extraordinary Americans who want to make a difference for those of us who serve. To all of you for taking the time to be here, recognize that we are grateful for what you have given us and what you have given our men and women and their families over such an extended period of time.”
Mullen introduced Medal of Honor recipients Bob Foley, Drew Dix and Barney Barnum, calling them “special people.” “I know how much you care, and your being here tonight says a lot about that,” he told the heroes. “I thank so many of you in your society who have stepped forward to mentor those who are in these wars and share your experiences.”
Mullen said America owes a great debt to its service members, their families and the families of the fallen. “We as a people and as a country must make sure we do everything we can to make sure they are OK for the rest of their lives,” he said. “And we will live with these challenges that we’ve gone through in these wars for decades.”
Mullen said today’s U.S. service members are an extraordinary generation of people geared to serve and make a difference and the nation must recognize and tap that potential. “They’re going to make America so much better over the long run,” he said.
The $572,000 raised at the dinner will be used for USO-Metro’s programs and services, including celebrity visits to local military hospitals, programs for families with deployed loved ones and emergency support for service members facing financial hardship.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)