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Donna Miles American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2008 – The Joint Staff’s operations director told participants in the third annual America Supports You National Summit here today it would be impossible to put a price tag on what they give the country’s men and women in uniform. Army Lt. Gen. Carter F. Ham told more than 180 representatives of 122 troop-support groups at the Pentagon for the all-day summit that the work they do and the support of the American people provide “the center of gravity for our operations.”
Troops rely on equipment, supplies, food and other resources to carry out their mission. But just as important, he said, is knowing the country stands solidly behind them and appreciates the sacrifices they and their families make. “And that’s what you do,” Ham told the group.
America Supports You organizations provide “a gentle reminder that somebody cares about them,” he said. “What you do signals to them that we care (and) your country is supportive of you. The message you send is, ‘Thank you, soldiers; thank you, sailors; thank you, airmen; and thank you, Marines; and thank you to your families for what you’re doing.’”
Ham recalled his first exposure to the America Supports You program, when he was working as the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations shortly after the Defense Department unveiled the program in November 2004. “I don’t think any of us who saw this at the start thought that America Supports You would turn into what it’s become,” he told the group.
“What you do truly does make a difference,” he said. “I don’t know what it would be like if you weren’t here, doing what you do day in and day out. But I do know that it wouldn’t be as good as it is.”
Traveling frequently between the Pentagon and forward locations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ham said, he’s witnessed firsthand the program’s impact on deployed servicemembers.
He said he watched troops return to their operating base after a mission, pausing to pick up and read a letter from a stack of thank-yous sent by an America Supports You group. “It’s not uncommon to see them sit down and write a note back to somebody they have no idea who they are, just to say, ‘Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for thinking of me and my buddies,’” he said.
Ham said he’s also seen servicemembers -- particularly those who aren’t married or have no immediate family -- respond to a care package or card expressing appreciation. “You can almost physically see their reaction when their commander or sergeant hands them a little bag or one of the mailings,” he said. “These are tough folks that have been in combat, and they’re moved by that.
“So if you ever wonder if what you’re doing matters, if folks appreciate it, let me give you an unequivocal ‘yes,’” Ham told the group. “You see it so many different ways.”
Ham said the impact of the America Supports You program expands far beyond each individual care package, letter to the troops or other single show of support.
“Collectively, the power you bring to our servicemembers around the world, especially to those who are in harm’s way, simply can’t be overstated,” he said. “It is a little touch of home. It is a little, gentle remember that somebody cares about them. … You can’t put a price tag on that.”