Families Stand United in Support of Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2007 - The group called "Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission" works publicly to ensure the troops know that the American people support them.

For example, on Veteran's Day, the group's Montana chapter placed American flags throughout the state's capital, said Merrilee Carlson, the group's president.

Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission was founded by Army Reserve Maj. Charles Larson, a former Iowa senator, in August 2005. The group is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that highlights the ways Americans are supporting the nation's servicemembers.

"It was prompted by the need of the (servicemembers) serving to hear from us that we totally supported what they were doing," Carlson said of the organization, which counts Gold and Blue Star families, as well as veterans, among its members. "We wanted our young men and women to know that we were totally behind them."

Carlson said she was drawn to the group after losing her son, Army Sgt. Michael Carlson, while he was serving in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division. She was looking for people who believed as she did and with whom she could connect. The organization offered that.

"One of the first things that we do is support one another," Carlson, said. "This group, it's a connecting force for all of us."

That support extends beyond the boundaries of the group's membership though. The group works to make sure servicemembers and military families find the right resources, an effort aided by the its membership in America Supports You, which Carlson praised as a "connector."

"We don't want to create one more thing, but we want to say, 'Look, these people are exactly what you're looking for,'" she said. "We also ... ensure that people are going to that Web site for the various options that are out there to help support our troops."

The group is introducing a new program this year, Carlson said. The program will be called "Strong and United for Our Country," and its goal is to ensure that Americans unite to support the troops and their mission.

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