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Pentagon unveils new program to help Americans show support for those in uniform

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has a message for its troops serving in war zones: America Supports You.

That’s the name of a new campaign, introduced Friday at the Pentagon by Charlie Abell, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Abell said the program is designed so that the Department of Defense can “realize what’s going on and to be able to tell our soldiers and their families that we support you.”

The effort is two-pronged, according to Allison Barber, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, internal communication/public liaison.

“We’re going to go to Americans and say, ‘Join our Web site. Tell us what you’re doing to support the troops.’ The second part is we’re going to take the info to the troops.

“We have a myriad of ways to talk to the troops, to provide information, and we’re going to use them all,” Abell said.

Barber said she also would be attending a taping of Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show that will have a segment dedicated to the program, and said the DOD is aggressively pursuing other high-profile shows, such as “Live with Regis and Kelly” and the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Barber said that during visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense officials were hearing servicemembers ask about the sentiments back home.

“Do Americans still support us?” she said the troops were asking. “And of course the answer is yes. You and I see it here, the yellow ribbons and all the terrific things folks are doing, but the guys overseas don’t see it. We have a communications gap.”

The Web site, http://americasupportsyou.mil/, will be a place where Americans can “join the team,” Barber said.

A text block asks you what you’ve done to support the troops, and when you send the information, it gives you the opportunity to link to Stars and Stripes’ Web site, where you can be shipped an “America Supports You” dog tag by providing a shipping address.

There’s also a space for Americans to send messages to the troops. One such message was on the new site Friday:

“Despite what you hear or read in the media back home, America thanks you for defending our way of life. We support you and may God bless you, keep you safe and return you home soon,” wrote “Jeff” from San Antonio.

Barber cited America’s flagging support as the Vietnam War continued as one reason for the campaign.

“In the Sixties, we did not do a good job of separating the war from the warrior. As the war grew unpopular, people started taking it out on the GI,” she said.

Abell reiterated that point when asked if Americans can support the troops without supporting the war.

“I think America can do this easily. If you don’t support the war philosophically, you can still support the troops.”


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