By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2007 – President Bush today paid tribute to military spouses across the nation and presented the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to six military spouses who he said “represent the very best of what volunteering means.” (See Video)
“You cannot be a nation with a volunteer Army unless you honor the military families, and that's what we're doing today,” Bush told an audience in the White House’s East Room that included Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and more than 200 service members and their families.
“As one wife in this audience recently noted,” Bush told the group, “military spouses do not raise their right hands and take an oath of enlistment. Yet, their service begins as soon as they say two words, ‘I do.’”
Today’s ceremony marked Military Spouse Day, as proclaimed by the president yesterday to recognize spouses’ sacrifices particularly during deployments. Military guests marking the occasion at the White House included Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Lynne; along with Mary Jo Meyers, wife of former chairman, Retired Air Force General Richard Meyers.
Other military leaders and civilian guests included Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, chief of Naval Operations, and his wife, Deborah; Marine General James Conway, U.S. Marine Corps commandant, and his wife, Annette; and Army General George Casey, U.S. Army chief of staff, and his wife, Sheila. Acting Secretary of the Army Peter Geren also attended, as did Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson and his wife Suzanne.
In his remarks, the president praised both the troops who volunteer to protect the country in the face of grave danger and emphasized the important roles family members play in service members’ lives.
“Through many conflicts, America's war fighters have counted on their spouses for love and support,” he told the military families. “Our communities have depended on your energy and your leadership. Our nation has benefited from the sacrifices of our military families.”
The president said that during his term in office he and his wife Laura have met with many military families at bases around the world. They’ve visited the wounded and hugged the loved ones of troops lost in combat.
“In these meetings I have found that what motivates our service members most is their love for their families,” Bush said. “Oh, they love our country, but they really love their families. You're in their prayers every morning, their thoughts every day, and their dreams every night.”
He noted that the Bush family has also experienced what it’s like to have a loved one go off to war.
“Some time ago,” he said, “a Naval aviator about to deploy to war wrote a letter to his fiance. … His words back then were these: ‘For a long time I had anxiously looked forward to the day when we would go abroad ... but you have changed all that. I do want to go because it is my part, but now leaving presents itself not as an adventure but as a job.’
“That letter was mailed more than 60 years ago, addressed to my mother from my father,” Bush said. “Millions of similar letters have been written since that war. And most of you likely have one that is special to you that you keep close to your heart.
"I know that nothing can compensate for the sacrifices you endure while your spouse is away. And so do a lot of people in Washington understand that," Bush said. "But you also got to know that our entire country stands with you -- we love you and we respect you.
“America has seen and survived many wars over many generations,” Bush said. “What has remained constant is the love we have for each other, the nobility of duty, and the strength that our men and women in uniform find in their heroes who serve at home.”
In 2003, Bush created the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation to find ways to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making to our nation.
The council created the President's Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who inspire others to engage in volunteer service through their demonstrated commitment.
Today’s recipients were:
-- Cindy Beerky, co-chairwoman of the Patriot Family Readiness Group, which provides information and resources to about 500 military families of soldiers stationed on Fort Lewis, Wash.
-- Michele Langford, president of the Coast Guard East Bay Spouse Association. Langford plans fundraising events for the annual scholarship which benefits dependent children of military members from all services and branches.
-- Shannon Maxwell, co-founder of Hope for the Warriors, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing servicemembers’ and their families’ quality of life after her husband, Tim, a Marine, suffered a severe head injury in Iraq.
-- Linda Port, a Navy wife for nearly 21 years who mentors servicemember spouses through enlisted spouse support groups. During one of her husband’s deployments, she served as ombudsman for nearly 1,200 sailors and their spouses.
-- Denise Rampolla, who works for the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming National Guard. Rampolla serves as a volunteer with the National Military Family Association, which strives to increase servicemembers’ and their families’ quality of life.
-- Michael Winton, the primary care-giver for his daughter while his wife serves in the Air Force, who also coaches sports teams, works with Habitat for Humanity and Fisher Nightingale Houses, visits veteran centers and volunteers to improve reading levels of at-risk children.
Bush Proclaims May 11 Military Spouse Day
Transcript: Bush Commemorates Military Spouse Day
Chairman Recognizes Military Spouses
Marine Wife, Officials Reflect on Military Spouse Day
The President’s Volunteer Service Award
AFRTS Video Reports: Military Spouse Awards at the White House
Places to Visit:
Soldiers' Angels Operation Outreach