By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, November 21, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter received the Lifetime of Service award from the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region during the organization's annual Salute to Service Gala yesterday in McLean, Virginia.
“When I was sworn in as Secretary, among the principal commitments I made was, first and foremost to our people, the men and women of the Department of Defense, our active duty, our Guard and Reserves, our civilians, our veterans, and all of their families,” Secretary Carter said.
“It’s my honor to accept this recognition tonight wholly on behalf of them, on behalf of those who’ve stepped forward to serve, on behalf of the finest fighting force the world has ever known. It’s them you honor tonight,” he said.
“And I want to thank the Red Cross for always being there for service members, their families and their survivors,” he said “In the past year, your volunteers have given 1.25 million hours of their time at home and abroad from their living rooms on the home front to the front lines at Camp Lemonnier (in Africa) and Camp Arifjan (in Kuwait). You’re everywhere you need to be.”
Made Immeasurable Difference
Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross said, “This award is given to a person who has served others throughout their lifetime and has made immeasurable difference in the lives of military, veterans and their families. The recipient must also be a supporter of the American Red Cross and be recognized throughout their own organization for all that they have accomplished. And I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Secretary Ashton Carter.
“Secretary Carter’s life reflects his continued commitment to service and his continued commitment to leadership,” she added. “He’s spent more than three decades leveraging his extensive knowledge of science, technology, global strategy and policy to help make our nation and the world a safer place. He’s deeply and fundamentally dedicated to the men and women of our armed forces. And Secretary Carter is a strong advocate for the role of the American Red Cross in how we serve the military and their families.”
The gala showcased the Red Cross’s commitment to helping the community in times of need and was a celebration of individuals who contributed to humanitarian services and service to the United States. Army veteran J.R. Martinez hosted the event, in which former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole and his wife Elizabeth were presented with the Exceptional Service Award.
“I want to thank J.R. Martinez. Your selflessness and determined spirit is nothing short of inspiring,” the secretary said. “And I want to congratulate Bob and Elizabeth Dole. Bob and Elizabeth have spent a lifetime making a difference for those who’ve served in every generation, and for their families. Their humanitarian efforts throughout the world, particularly with this organization, have given countless people the gift of a better life.”
Throughout the evening, the Red Cross paid tribute to the men, women and families of the military and communities who helped their neighbors and friends prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.
Marine Maj. Katelyn van Dam received the Tiffany Circle Distinguished Woman Warrior Award. During her time on active duty for 10 years, she served as an attack helicopter pilot in combat operations in Afghanistan and also as a staff platoon commander at Quantico, Virginia, where she taught new Marine officers basic tactics and leadership. She is now continuing her service in the Marine Corps Reserve while a full-time graduate student and co-founder and Director of Strategy and Policy for No Exceptions, a nonpartisan initiative that supports the full integration of women into all combat arms specialties in the military.
“I want to take a moment to congratulate Maj. Katelyn van Dam. There are young women across America – future Marines – who are inspired by trailblazers like Katelyn,” Secretary Carter said.
The Red Cross mission statement is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
“The power of the Red Cross is a tradition of engaged citizenry and the example that you set for the world. As we build the force of the future, recruiting and retaining the best America has to offer, we will continue to look to the grateful citizens of this nation to support our military families, care for our veterans, and to be there for those who valiantly step forward to serve,” Carter said.