Program Supporting US Troops Sees 'Phenomenal Growth'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Americans from all walks of life played a role in the "phenomenal growth" of America Supports You as the organization's second year of operation saw more than 6 million care packages sent to troops serving overseas and nearly $3.5 million raised by community groups.

"This past year has been an amazing journey, and we've seen the extraordinary and growing capacity Americans have to take care of each other by continuously asking, 'how can we help?'" said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense and architect of the America Supports You (ASY) program.

"Our community groups have done phenomenal work for our soldiers and their families, and have shown that Americans have an unparalleled desire to give back to those who so bravely defend our freedoms," Barber added.

ASY is a Department of Defense program launched in 2004 aimed at showcasing support for members of the Armed Forces by the American people and communicating that support to military members and their families.

Among the accomplishments of ASY was the creation of a national tradition to observe the 9//11 attacks on the Pentagon, New York City and Shanksville, Pa.

Americans rallied to remember and honor the lives lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks by hosting ASY Freedom Walks in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with nearly 140 walks organized across the nation.

In the past year, nearly 250 ASY community groups have worked tirelessly to show appreciation for those who wear the uniform.

In Orange, Calif., 16-year-old Shauna Fleming's ambitious letter-writing campaign, "A Million," sent 2.6 million letters to service members stationed around the world.

Similarly, Jeanette Cram of Hilton Head Island, S.C., gave selflessly as her organization, "Treat the Troops," continued baking thousands of cookies to be sent to troops stationed overseas.

Both Fleming and Cram have been personally thanked by President George W. Bush in the White House, along with 37 other ASY community groups throughout the year.

In July, ASY member John Gonsalves, founder of the Taunton, Mass.-based "Homes For Our Troops," was awarded the Medal of Honor by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the organization's most prestigious award.

Gonsalves was recognized for his dedication to building and refitting homes to be handicap-accessible for returning members of the military with disabilities. Past award recipients include Rudy Giuliani and Lady Bird Johnson.

In 2006, nearly 70 new organizations applied for membership in ASY. These additions have brought the number of groups to nearly 250 and helped attract more than 2.5 million unique visitors to the America Supports You Web site.

Other accomplishments by ASY groups include:

-- Mailing more than 3.4 million cards and letters of support to military men and women;

-- Delivering more than 500,000 books to deployed troops;

-- Greeting more than 75,000 troops returning home from deployment;

-- Providing more than 1,500 computers to military families so they can keep in touch with their deployed loved ones; and

-- Building or remodeling more than 25 homes for wounded veterans.

The 33 America Supports You corporate sponsors have partnered with community groups this year for additional efforts as well. Among the many partnerships between corporations and community groups that have taken place this year are:

-- "The Patriotic Drive," a collaboration between ASY team members Checkers/Rally's and Encino, Calif.-based "Operation Gratitude," which resulted in more than 40,000 care packages sent to U.S. troops.

-- "Operation Christmas," a joint effort between "Operation Homefront" and Wal-Mart, which launched a six-city holiday caravan to distribute toys and Wal-Mart gift cards to military children and their families in Belleville, Ill.; Norfolk, Va.; Pensacola, Fla.; Gulfport, Miss.; San Antonio, Texas; and Savannah, Ga.

-- The PGA Tour and the Tournament Players Clubs teamed up to raise more than $1 million over the last two years for three ASY community groups: "Homes for Our Troops" of Taunton, Mass.; "Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund" of New York City; and "Wounded Warrior Project" of Jacksonville, Fla.

"America Supports You is experiencing phenomenal growth as more and more Americans recognize the importance of reminding our troops that we appreciate everything they do," Barber said.

"This program is taking root in all corners of the country and is now finally cementing itself at the forefront of patriotic organizations and is becoming a staple of service member support."

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