By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2010 - America's support of our troops and their families has been a welcome theme during this past decade of war. The stories of support are abundant, from top leaders encouraging Americans to salute troops to caring neighbors pitching in to help a deployed family.
Some people have taken this support even a step further, creating innovative programs and organizations that are doing extensive work on behalf of military families.
Eight of these organizations were lauded for their efforts to improve military families' quality of life during the 11th Annual Newman's Own Awards ceremony Sept. 1, which I wrote about in my American Forces Press Service article, "Cartwright Lauds Nonprofit Groups for Military Support."
The volunteer-based organizations received awards totaling $75,000, with Inova Health System Foundation's Military to Medicine program taking the highest honor and corresponding $15,000 award.
The behind-the-scenes contributions of these organizations are every bit as valuable as the more visible contributions of those in uniform, Marine Corps. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the ceremony.
"For those who go out and sacrifice in a very overt way, there are those that serve in a very different way, but equally as important," he said.
"What you have done is no less important to the legacy of this country."
The Newman's Own Award was presented to the following programs and organizations:
-- Military to Medicine, of Falls Church, Va., recruits and trains extended military family members to become workforce-ready health care employees. Its purpose is to help military spouses, wounded warriors and their caregivers, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members and servicemembers transitioning to civilian employment find accessible short-term training with immediate career accessibility in health care.
-- Carolina Canines for Veterans, of Wilmington, N.C., provides trained dogs rescued from local shelters to assist wounded warriors. This program, launched by the Carolina Canines for Service organization, received $10,000 for its efforts.
-- Military Marriage Enrichment, of Corsicana, Texas, strengthens military marriages, enabling couples to better cope with the stressors of combat, wounds or multiple deployments. The program, created by Marriage Management Consultants Inc., received $10,000.
-- Empowering Military Families through Employment, a program of the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network of Lake St. Louis, Mo., features virtual training seminars that provide military-affiliated applicants job education and training needed to increase employment success. For its efforts, the organization received $10,000.
-- Project Sanctuary Therapeutic Retreats, of Parker, Colo., helps families reconnect following lengthy separations and deployments. The program begins with a free, five night therapeutic retreat using recreation as a form of diversion therapy. Project Sanctuary families enjoy year-round activities, such as hiking, skiing, horseback riding and sledding, in the Colorado Rocky Mountain region. This program received $10,000 to continue its efforts.
-- Operation Building Hope, of Fuquay-Varine, N.C., equips wounded veterans with a handicap-accessible home. The program uses an all-volunteer work force to construct and install ramps and rails, modify bathrooms, lower countertops and widen doorways. The program, created by the Military Missions in Action organization, received $10,000.
-- Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces, of Alexandria, Va., supplies books to military families to assist them in developing their children's reading skills. Blue Star Families Inc. created this program, which received an $8,000 award.
-- Kids Blossom through Gardening is a program created by the Dover Air Force Base Key Spouse Club of Dover, Del., to enhance the health and wellness of airmen and their families by decreasing overweight and obesity through community gardening. This program received a $2,000 award.
"It's a humbling thing to stand in the Hall of Heroes," said Daniel Nichols, executive director of Military to Medicine, upon receipt of his award. "It's also a humbling thing to have the privilege to serve people whose ordinary lives are transformed by extraordinary circumstance, as in the case of our military families."
Including this year's awards, the annual competition has recognized 133 programs with awards totaling $650,000 since its inception in 1999.
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