Chairman Thanks USO for Service to Military

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)

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