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Recognizing Service to Military Families

Joining Forces is focused on rallying energy and action from every sector of our society to give veterans, service members, their spouses and children the support they have earned. I was fortunate to be present at a recognition ceremony honoring organizations that are TRULY embracing this concept – and making a marked and significant difference in the lives of our military families.

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided remarks at the twelfth annual Newman’s Own Award Ceremony at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes today as awards totaling $75,000 were presented to six non-profit organizations for their innovative programs that are improving military quality of life.

Knights of Heroes Summer Camp, a program run by the Knights of Heroes Foundation, received the highest honor and the corresponding $15,000 award. Knights of Heroes Summer Camp aims to provide a wilderness adventure camp that empowers boys and girls who have lost a parent in military service through positive mentorship, character development and lasting friendships. The bonds created at the camp last throughout the year. "Knights of Heroes" kids meet throughout the year at programs such as TAPS and Snowball Express. Many kids stay in touch with their camp mentors throughout the year, knowing that there is someone available on whom they can rely.

Newman’s Own, Fisher House Foundation and Military Times Media Group sponsored the competition, which seeks to reward ingenuity and innovation for programs that benefit service men and women and their families. Six judges evaluated each entry based on the organization’s impact to their respective communities, as well as each program’s creativity and innovation.

A total of 186 entries were received for the 2011 program. This is an astounding number, but what makes working on military family issues so rewarding is that I know this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are great organizations around the country that are following the example of the Knights of Heroes Foundation and are making a difference for military families in their own communities. Each of us has a role to play, and the means by which we can all reach out to and support our military families is only limited by our imaginations.  

The First Lady and Dr. Biden have repeatedly seen examples of great programs like these, and they want to recognize what other organizations are doing to help our veterans and military families. That is why they launched the Joining Forces Community Challenge. Check it out and nominate someone you know who deserves to be recognized for their efforts today!

Brad Cooper is Executive Director of Joining Forces in the Office of the First Lady