Military Families Appreciation Month Highlights Service, Sacrifice

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2006 - Today kicks off Military Families Appreciation Month, an annual tribute to the family members who, President Bush and other U.S. and military leaders frequently recognize, serve the country alongside their loved ones in uniform.

The month-long observance, with events planned at Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps bases around the world and in communities nationwide, highlights the contributions and sacrifices military family members make every day.

Bush thanked families for that service during an Oct. 28 visit to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. "As the president of the United States, I want to tell you plain and simple," he told military families, "(that) the American people respect you, they appreciate you, and I'll do everything in my power to make sure the families and those who wear the uniform have all the support necessary to win this war on terror."

Bush emphasized the important role military families play in U.S. national defense when he introduced Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to U.S. troops and their families at Fort Belvoir, Va., earlier this summer.

"Mr. Prime Minister, when I speak to our troops, I also talk to their loved ones, because you can't have a strong United States military without the support of the military families," Bush told Maliki during the July 26 session. "Our troops have sacrificed, and as they have done so, so have our military families. And so today we pay respect for the men and women who wear the uniform and their loved ones. We're proud of you."

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed a similar sentiment earlier this month at the "Memorial Concert and Tribute to Today's Heroes" in Worcester, Mass. "When we go off to combat, our families wait at home and pray that we're safe," Pace told the audience, which included 400 Gold Star families who lost a family member in military service.

"For those of us who are fortunate enough to return, our families stand in the back when we receive awards. And when we get tired, our families dust us off and put us back again to the fight," the chairman told the group at the Oct. 16 event. "Our families serve this country as well as any (veteran)."

Vice President Richard B. Cheney was so struck by Pace's sentiment, one the chairman expresses regularly when he meets with military groups, that Cheney echoed them during a visit to Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.

While military families may pretend they have nothing to do with their loved ones' success during a deployment, "it is the love and support of our families that makes all the difference in the world," the vice president said at the Oct. 4 event.

"I know that General Pace's words speak for all of you," Cheney said. "And I want you to know that our whole nation is filled with respect and gratitude for our military families."

First lady Laura Bush recognized the contributions of military families, but particularly those of almost 190,000 U.S. children with one or both parents deployed overseas, during a conference this summer in Denver, Colo.

"Military kids are resourceful and resilient, but the demands of military life -- frequent moves and school transitions, long-distance parenting, parents reentering family life after the trauma of combat, not to mention the stress of knowing that Mom or Dad is in harm's way -- present unique difficulties for our troops and their children," the first lady said Aug. 4 at the Second Regional Helping America's Youth Conference.

"Military families give so much to our communities and our country," she said, "and Americans have the obligation to help them in every way that we can."

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