DoD Honors Arizona City for Troop Support

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

PHOENIX, April 13, 2007 - The Defense Department recognized the city of Peoria, Ariz., yesterday for its stalwart support of the military.

Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett accepted the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award on behalf of his city in a ceremony here.

"(The servicemembers) are the people that we are honoring here today. These are the people we are asking the supreme sacrifice of," Barrett, a Vietnam veteran, said in accepting the award. "By golly, when they come back and while they're over there, they deserve our support.

"The city of Peoria will give them that support, and I call on all of you to join us," he challenged.

He received a medal and a citation describing the city's accomplishments from Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public liaison and internal communications. She lauded the city's efforts to support the nation's servicemembers.

"I'd like to thank the city of Peoria for understanding ... the importance of communicating America's support for our troops," Barber said, going on to thank all of the leaders gathered. "Thank you for understanding that the morale of the men and women in the military rests on your soldiers.

She also took the opportunity to speak about the America Supports You program and show a message "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek recorded regarding the program. America Supports You is a DoD program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

Barber also presented Arizona State Rep. John Nelson with a DoD parka in recognition for his support of the military.

Peoria, located northwest of Phoenix, was recognized for many efforts in support of the troops. One of those includes encouraging its chamber of commerce to become the first chamber in the country to join the America Supports You program in 2005.

Peoria also was the first city in Arizona to broadcast the Pentagon Channel live, ensuring servicemembers living in the area have access to news that affects them. The city is currently leading an effort to make the channel available statewide. This is just one of the initiatives Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano vowed to pursue two years ago when she declared her state would join the America Supports You team, Barber said.

"I'm so proud that Peoria, hopefully, will be the flashpoint for taking (the Pentagon Channel) statewide; for taking this, hopefully, nationwide," Barrett said. "It's absolutely critical for people that are serving."

Army Maj. Matthew Gardner, of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., said support like the city of Peoria has shown the troops is just as critical as receiving the Pentagon Channel.

"Having support from the American people, which is who we serve, is critical," he said. "It keeps our morale up. It keeps us knowing that we are doing the right thing and keeping the American people free to do what they want to do."

Servicemembers' sacrifices, both at home and overseas, are not lost on U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. He had a message for the men and women in uniform.

"We are proud of them beyond measure," Franks said, adding that the nobility of no profession out paces that of being a soldier of freedom. "Because soldiers don't fight because they hate what's in front of them.

"They fight because they love what's behind them," he said.

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