Washington (Army News Service) — Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno hosted a special Twilight Tattoo to salute four civilians who have helped wounded warriors, supported war fighters, and launched an initiative to hire veterans.
Odierno said it was his honor to present the Outstanding Civilian Service Awards, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., yesterday.
The honorees at the "Salute from the Chief" were Mike Duke, a former Walmart president and chief executive officer; Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League; Cheryl Jensen, founder and executive director of the Vail Veterans Program; and Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour.
"These four honorable men and women have all taught us lessons about service. Their steadfast commitment to our Soldiers has been unwavering," Odierno said.
They serve the military and veteran communities "for the simple yet profound reason that they love their country and have a deep respect for those who serve, for their families, and for their families who stand by them," he said.
"You are great examples to us all. We are indebted to each and every one of you and tonight we are proud to salute you," he said.
After the awards presentation, Soldiers with the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), performed in the Twilight Tattoo, which featured music from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," and period tableaus highlighting the service and sacrifice of Soldiers throughout Army history.
WALMART'S COMMITMENT TO VETERANS
Odierno recognized Duke for Walmart's support of veterans and military families, including the "Veterans Welcome Home Commitment" for transitioning military veterans.
"Mike is a committed and innovative supporter of the armed forces who is profoundly dedicated to the welfare of service members, veterans and their families," Odierno said.
The Welcome Home initiative is an "unprecedented program" he said. It promises to hire any honorably discharged veteran who applies within the first 12 months of leaving active duty.
"Walmart aims to hire 100,000 veterans by 2018, which is simply amazing," Odierno said.
In addition, Walmart has "saluted and invested in those who serve" and challenged other corporations to offer hiring opportunities to veterans and their families.
"Mike works together with our uniformed men and women in a heartfelt showing of support. Mike and Walmart serve those who nobly serve us, much to the good of our communities and our nation," Odierno said.
NFL BRINGS ATTENTION TO TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES
Goodell's efforts to bring attention to traumatic brain injury have resulted in life-changing awareness and increased funding for this issue that affects not only NFL players, but also Soldiers, Odierno said.
He has shown "tremendous leadership" in bringing attention to this injury, he said.
In addition, the NFL has partnered with the USO to support troops overseas and to improve the morale of deployed forces, the chief said.
Under Goodell's leadership, the NFL also honors Soldiers and their families on the home front with Salute to Service, in which each of the 32 teams pay tribute to the U.S. armed forces.
The league invites service members to take part in pre-game and on-field ceremonies, Odierno said.
"The NFL's commitment to military support organizations such as the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project has simply been extraordinary," he said.
"Your dedication to our Soldiers and families has been phenomenal," Odierno said. "Your personal leadership has made a real difference to all of us who serve in uniform."
HELP FOR WOUNDED WARRIORS
In 2004, Jensen founded the non-profit Vail Veterans Program in Vail, Colo., to help wounded Soldiers rebuild their lives after war and reintegrate into civilian life, Odierno said.
"Cheryl's hard work has been awe-inspiring," he said. "What began as a single, outdoor rehabilitation weekend has grown to three, multi-day events throughout the year for wounded veterans, their families and caregivers."
The efforts have had a profound impact on the injured service members, their families and the Army, he said. She has shown support, love and compassion, reminding the nation of the meaning of kindness as she honors those who served and sacrificed, he said.
At no cost, the wounded veterans and their families can take part in the program that includes outdoor activities such as white-water rafting, zipline tours, horseback riding, skiing, and snowboarding.
"All the programs are designed to help our heroes rebuild their confidence, heal and transition to a vibrant, active new life," Odierno said.
The program has welcomed 500 veterans, and more than 1,000 family members and caregivers.
"You have given back to those who have given so much, offering them hope and a renewed sense of purpose," Odierno said.
Jensen said she founded the group as a way for her community to give back to wounded service members. She had a hard time putting into words just how honored she was to be recognized for her group's efforts, she said.
"It's very special. It's an honor for our community and all those who have supported our program," she said. "I truly accept it on behalf of all of them; we couldn't do it without their support."
GIVE AN HOUR
In 2005, Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that offers free mental health support to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.
The network has more than 6,700 providers who have collectively given $8.7 million of mental health care. She also spearheaded an effort to establish a memorandum of understanding to extend free mental health care for National Guard and Reserve Soldiers and their families, Odierno said.
"I'm amazed by your commitment to our Soldiers, our veterans and their families," Odierno said. "By your example, we are reminded of the spirit of generosity, how you and your colleagues give back and help our own."
It is dedicated Americans like Van Dahlen who show unwavering support to Soldiers and family members that "make us realize how lucky we are to live in this great country," he said.
Van Dahlen said she works with many other organizations that help returning veterans.
"We're honored to do what we can," she said. "I'm incredibly humbled by this amazing recognition. It's just incredible."
Lives and families are saved by helping Soldiers and families heal from the wounds of war, she said.
"There is nothing greater than supporting those men and women who serve our nation," she said.