California School Honored for Public Service

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2007 - The Defense Department recognized a California high school at the Pentagon today for supporting one of its students and a program she undertook for the nation's servicemembers.

Shauna Fleming, 17, a student at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., is the founder of "A Million Thanks," a member organization of DoD's America Supports You program that highlights and facilitates support for the nation's men and women in uniform.

Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, presented the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award to the high school's principal, Gregg Pinick, who accepted the award on the school's behalf.

"We're here to thank the students and the faculty and the staff of the Orange Lutheran High School for their dedication and support of our military men and women," Smith said. "Your high school has been a dedicated supporter of America Supports You.

"Thank you ... a million thanks - 2.6 million thanks - for all that you have done," he added.

A Million Thanks began as Fleming's effort to have a million messages of gratitude from Americans deliverd to deployed servicemembers. The program's success enabled her to raise the bar and strive for 2.6 million messages - one for every man and woman in the nation's active and reserve component forces.

Pinick has worked with Fleming and her school schedule so she could participate in special events involving A Million Thanks. Additionally, he has allowed her to use the school's mailroom to collect the letters, and even let the students participate in sorting, packing and delivering the letters she receives.

But he's modest about the attention the school has received for its support of Fleming's efforts.

"(The recognition) is very humbling ... just because of the fact that we're not laying our lives down every day," Pinick said. "To be able to say thank you to somebody is a pretty simple thing. We learn it when we're young. We tend to forget it a little bit when we're older.

"(Fleming) has provided an opportunity for so many people around the country to just to be able to say thank you," he added.

Pinick took home an official award citation and a medal acknowledging the school's honor.

Fleming, on hand for the award ceremony, said the school's participation was crucial in helping her reach her goal of collecting 2.6 million letters of support for the troops.

"I definitely could not have done it without my school," Fleming said. "They have been so helpful from the very beginning."

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