Gates Extols Value of Troop-Support Efforts

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

DALLAS, May 3, 2007 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today expressed thanks to Americans who support the troops and urged people to check out the Defense Department's America Supports You program.

Gates told several hundred members of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce here that he's grateful for the support many are providing their employees serving in the National Guard and reserves. "You value these citizen soldiers and know they're more than worth retaining," he said. "Thank you for believing in them."

The secretary acknowledged it's "a tough time for them and for their families" and said it means a lot for these troops to know they have their employers' support. "I can assure you that your help and understanding do not go unnoticed," he said.

Gates recognized the long list of other activities the chamber sponsors to benefit the military, from adopt-a-soldier projects and providing free sports tickets to helping servicemembers travel to be with their loved ones or keep in touch while they're overseas.

He also heralded the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport's "Welcome Home a Hero" initiative, which organizes local groups, schools, congregations and businesses to greet troops returning home from deployments. Gates witnessed the program firsthand earlier today as a group welcomed more than 200 troops from several branches of the military as they arrived from Kuwait.

"These kinds of public receptions are really important," the secretary said. "Whatever disagreements exist over the war in Iraq, we are all united in our admiration of the men and women who have volunteered to serve our nation during these challenging times."

Gates contrasted these receptions with those Vietnam veterans received when they returned home. "It's good to see that we have learned from our past experiences and mistakes," he said.

The America Supports You program offers solid evidence of that wellspring of support, he said. The program, launched to recognize the myriad efforts under way around the country to show appreciation for military members and their families, is particularly helpful for people who want to express support, but who aren't sure how to get involved, he said.

"If people go to the America Supports You Web site, they will see countless projects they can join, from sending care packages to troops abroad to lending a helping hand to their families here at home," Gates said. "Everything you do makes a difference."

Gates called the opportunity to meet and work with "extraordinary people" dedicated to serving the country the highlight of his job at the Defense Department. At the top of that list, he said, are the troops serving on the front lines.

"I've come away from my four visits to Iraq and Afghanistan impressed by their resilience, their good humor, their courage and their determination in the face of danger and personal sacrifice," he said.

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