Amid the preteens squealing to the beat at Tuesday’s “America’s Future Rocks Today” concert were 16 military family members invited by pop singer Hilary Duff.

The pre-inaugural event, featuring a constellation of pop stars and a visit by President Bush, was a flashy break for children whose parents have been deployed six to nine months each year since 9/11, said Patricia Driscoll, president of the Armed Forces Foundation, which helped arrange for the concert tickets and meet-and-greet session.

Duff typically invites 50 to 100 military family members to her concerts because she wants to help troops and encourage their families. “I think that it was something that we wanted to do to give back,” she said Monday.

Duff also has visited wounded troops at military hospitals, including a stop at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., earlier this week.

“I have so much respect for them,” she said. “They make me feel so grateful … . They are truly heroes.”

Such celebrity events grab attention for the Armed Forces Foundation but its biggest efforts touch individual families. Driscoll estimates it has helped about 10,000 military families since the war on terrorism began.

The foundation’s efforts range from fishing events to helping families cope with the trauma of combat wounds, Driscoll said. A major initiative helps families pay hotel bills during time spent with hospitalized troops.

Marine Lt. Col. Jim Byrne, who has worked with wounded Marines at Bethesda, said the foundation has paid for a block of rooms at the base’s Navy Lodge for visiting family members.

“It’s very helpful for these Marines to have their family members to help them get better,” Byrne said.

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