America Supports You: Arizona Pledges Support to U.S. Troops
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2005 – Arizona today became the first state to launch a statewide campaign of support for the military under the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program.
"It's important to send a message that we do care and that we do support our military," Rep. John Nelson, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee for the Arizona State House of Representatives, said at a kick-off event in the Phoenix City Council Chamber.
America Supports You is a DoD campaign to highlight what individuals, groups and communities throughout the United States are doing to support military servicemembers. Officials said about 180 people attended today's event in Phoenix, which was scheduled to coincide with National Military Appreciation Month.
"This is about how we as a community can say, 'America is behind you,'" said Mayor John Keegan, of Peoria, Ariz., the city that was the key organizer of today's event. "When you're overseas, sometimes your morale depends on the last piece of news you receive. This is to help reinforce the good news that regardless of politics or how you feel about the war that it's your sons and daughters doing important work serving their country on your behalf."
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano issued a proclamation supporting the effort, as well.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber was in Phoenix today to kick off Arizona's statewide campaign. "That is just powerful," Barber said after retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Tom Browning read Napolitano's proclamation.
Barber said she's often asked if Americans still support the military. "Military morale is really based on the support from the home front," she said. "America Supports You connects the American people to the military."
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce was another key organizer for today's event. Chamber official Scott Peterson remarked how he had once heard Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urge people to publicly thank military members. With this, Peterson spoke directly to a group of commanders from Arizona military bases: "I thank you for protecting our way of life," he told the officers. "We are pleased to be the first state Chamber of Commerce to kick off America Supports You."
Arizona also is the first state to work directly with the Pentagon Channel, which distributes military news and information to servicemembers, retirees and their families. Barber and state officials are coordinating to bring DoD's Pentagon Channel beyond military bases and into the communities surrounding the bases.
"In Arizona, we would like to be the first state to take it a step further and broadcast the Pentagon Channel for military personnel and their families living outside the bases," Nelson said.
(Air Force Maj. John Paradis, chief of public affairs at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., contributed to this article from Phoenix.)
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