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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Allison Barber
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

March 25, 2005

Allison Barber
Good afternoon and happy Friday to everyone! First, before we begin, I would like to welcome everyone online with us today. On behalf of our fantastic men and women in the military, their families and Secretary Rumsfeld, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to log into Ask the White House to find out how you can show your support for our military men and women. I hope that either during this chat or shortly after everyone will take a moment to visit the Department of Defense's new website,, and join our team of hundreds of thousands of Americans who have sent messages of support to our servicemembers around the world. With that, I'm ready to get started with your questions!

Marna, from writes:
Ms Barber, Thank you for taking the time to read my email. My boyfriend just recently deployed to I'm not sure where. He called 2 days ago and explained to me that he couldn't really tell me where he was. All I know is that he is either in Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan. I really don't think anyone knows how hard this is for families when we have no idea what to expect. My days are full of worry and I fear for his safety. I understand that there is little you can do for me but I just wanted to express my concerns and I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely, Marna Anderson

Allison Barber
Marna, It can be tough when your loved one is deployed. During my husbands deployment I found great comfort in my faith, in my realization that the Army trains and equips the military to handle every situation to be as protected as possible, and in my awareness of how deeply Secretary Rumsfeld and the leaders at DoD care for each military member. Hang in there. What your boyfriend is doing is very noble -- you are making a sacrifice too and we appreciate what you both are doing for our country.

Gary, from Indianapolis, IN writes:
Allison,How many individuals are members of ASY? Are there any major corporations active in the program? Dad

Allison Barber
Great question, we have had over 1.3 million hits to our website and an average of 707 people a day are joining the team. Over 74,000 individuals have already joined. We are thrilled with the corporate leadership we have seen through the membership of McDonalds, Grand Ole Opry, ESPN, Vail Resorts and PGA Tours to name a few. And Dad, what time should I be there for dinner?

Lori, from Indianpolis, Indiana writes:
Ms. Barber, Thank you for the great work you are doing to help the country know how we can show support for the brave men and women of our military and their families. I am wondering what we, as citizens, can do to get the word out about America Supports You. We need to be hearing more about the campaign and about specific things others are doing to show their support for our military.

Again, thank you for your tireless efforts; we appreciate all you are doing for our military and our country.

Lori Ellwanger

Allison Barber
Lori, Thank you for your taking the time to find out how you can support our military. Tell your friends about America Supports You, encourage them to join the team and share with us what they are doing in their communities to support the troops so we can communicate that support directly to our military men and women. Keep up the great support – it means so much to them!

Jeff, from Los Angeles writes:
Given that the war was largely for the benefit of the Iraqi people, will there be an opportunity for Iraqi nationals to participate in thanking our troops? If so, what form will this gratitude take?

Allison Barber
Jeff, Thanks for that very thoughtful question. I can tell you from my trip to Iraq last year and through meetings with Iraqis here in the United States, they are grateful for the support of the American people. But don't just take my word for it - listen to what the Iraqis themselves are saying. Here is what Iraq's Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said just a few months ago: "We Iraqis know that Americans have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to liberate Iraq, to assure Iraq's freedom. I have come here to thank you and to promise you that your sacrifices are not in vain."

Iraqis continue to show their strong support for freedom and for democracy and I think that in the months and years ahead you will see a strong partnership emerge between our two countries as we continue to wage the global war on terror and as we welcome even more new democracies to the community of free nations.

Carla, from Dubuque, Iowa writes:
Having been an Army wife yourself, what do you feel is the most important service that should be provided for men and women of the military that are separated from their loved ones?

Allison Barber
Carla, Support requirements are different for each military family. I think connecting our military community to the variety of programs that are available is one of the most helpful programs DoD provides. Thankfully, Americans are really reaching out to the military members and their families to offer specific support -- as highlighted on our website.

Sarah, from Birmingham, AL writes:
How long has the "America Supports You" program been in existence?

Allison Barber
Sara, America Supports You was launched in November of last year. Since then, we have discovered all the great things that Americans have been doing for years to support our troops. And that is one of the reasons a program like this was so needed. We are grateful for the opportunity to highlight all the wonderful ways Americans were already, and continue to, support our troops.

Rose, from Chicago writes:
I don't have many much money and I'd like to help locally. What can I do to help the troops?

Allison Barber
Rose, Thank you for caring enough to ask! There are so many things you can do to show your support that don't cost a thing. Visit the website and click on the link for "How You Can Help" and you will find more than 100 ways that you can help show support for our military. Please remember that flying your flag, thanking a soldier, telling your friends about this program are also very important ways to show your support. Also, don't forget to join the team!

Nora, from Portland, OR writes:
Is it difficult to be an Army wife and also have your professional life be so connected to the lives of military families?

Allison Barber
Nora, This is the best job I have ever had because I am passionate about the military and the wonderful people who serve. I have the amazing opportunity to live out my passion at work and at home. It is great.

Tom, from Cedar Rapids writes:
I am a sixth grade social studies teacher. Are there special materials I can share with my class so that they might help in some way?

Allison Barber
Tom, I taught sixth grade too and just like you, I was always looking for material to keep things interesting. I would invite your students to do two things. First, each student can go to and send an email message to our military. Then your students can America Supports You Team and receive their free dog tag. Second, if your students click on the How To Help page, they will see over 100 organizations that are doing great support activities for the military. I bet your students would have fun selecting a project and working on it until May -- which is military appreciation month. Thanks for your work as a school teacher--- such an important profession.

Barbara, from Skokie, Illinois writes:
How did this program begin? The web site looks really great and I was wondering if it is interactive for me to send a message to the troops?

Allison Barber
Barbara, The Department of Defense launched this program on November 19, 2004, and President Bush then kick started it in his speech to Marines out at Camp Pendleton in California. To date, more than 1.3 million people have visited the website, and more than 700 people have joined the team every day. The site is interactive - when you join the team and send a message of support, our military men and women can see your note and many have written back.

Jake, from San Jose, CA writes:
How many members of the armed services are there on active duty?

Allison Barber
Jake, There are 1.4 million active duty servicemembers in our all-volunteer military serving our country every day around the globe. There are also 1.3 million reserve and national guardsmen standing by ready to serve in the event they are needed.

Darrell, from Salem, MA writes:
Are there special awards for those who show exceptional service and volunteerism within your program?

Allison Barber
Darrell, Every person out there that joins the team is recognized for taking the time to show their support. If you take a second to browse the website you will also see stories on every day citizens that have gone the extra mile in their communities. From the young California girl who collected a million thank you cards to the Dallas, TX mother who helped re-decorate a hospital recovery wing to provide a more comfortable atmosphere for wounded returning soldiers, the America Supports You campaign is working to share your story with our servicemembers. Sign up, join the team and let us know what you are doing to support our military!

Cara, from Chesterland writes:
Being that my husband is in the service, I know first hand how hard it is for those individuals serving our country and I just wanted to thank you all first hand for being so supportive. My question is what can I do, as a mother of 2 very young children to drum up more support in my otherwise despondent community?

Allison Barber
Cara, THANK YOU for your sacrifices and for the sacrifices of your entire family during this time of war. There are many things that you can do from your own home to help show support for our military. First, as I've mentioned, visit the website and join the team. Secondly, on the website there is a section called "How You Can Help" that lists more than 100 organizations and groups that you can get involved with that are dedicated to supporting our military men and women. Take a second and check it out, and once you get involved, write us a note and share with us what you are doing to we can let your husband and all of our servicemembers know they have strong support back in Chesterland!

Joshua, from Detroit, MI writes:
Do our men and women in uniform feel that they have the support of the american people?

Allison Barber
That's a great question and it goes to the very heart of the America Supports You campaign. It may be tough for some folks back home to realize this, but many of our men and women in uniform wonder if they have the support of the American people. It's for every soldier who ever wondered if he had the support of the people back home and for every wife or husband or parent who sits at home watching the news and wondering if their loved one will be welcomed home as a hero that we launched this campaign. Regardless of your political background or your position on the war, we hope that every American will take a few moments to join the team and send a message of support to our brave young men and women serving in our armed forces. It really does mean so much to them and to their families. Thanks again for the question.

Susan, from Miami, FL writes:
My husband is on active duty over in Iraq. He tells me every time we talk how proud he is to serve our country and how proud he is of the job he and his soldiers are doing. What can we do here in america to let our deployed military know that we love and support them?

Allison Barber
Thanks for that great question. My husband just got back from a year-long deployment in Iraq as well, and I want to thank you for your sacrifice and for the sacrifice of your family while your husband serves abroad. Your husband's pride in his soldiers is well deserved and is one of the reasons why we launched the America Supports You campaign - so that our troops and their families back home will never forget that Americans stand firmly behind them. You can help us spread this message by logging on to the website and sharing with us what you are doing to support our military. From bake sales to care package campaigns, we want to know what Americans are doing to support our troops so we can share that information with them directly.

Theresa, from Tennessee writes:
Ms. Barber,Thanks for taking questions on Good Friday. Please explain about the dog tags on your web site.

thank you and how can I get them?

Allison Barber
Theresa, Thanks for asking! The America Supports You dog tags are a free gift sent by mail to each person who joins the America Supports You team. Just take a minute and log onto, sign up and send a message of support to our men and women in uniform. Once you've hit the submit button for your message, you will see the dog tag on the American Flag. Click on the link to Stars and Stripes and it will take you to the page where you can fill in your information so that we can send you your own dog tag to wear in support for our military. Tens of thousands of people have already joined the team. Famous folks like Hillary Duff and Samuel L. Jackson and sports stars like Emmitt Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all joined up - so can you!

Jayme, from ft. myers, Florida writes:
I was just looking at your site and saw notes from soldiers. My question is do lots of them have internet access when they are abroad to post these messages? I am very impressed with their messages and like they can keep in touch.

Allison Barber
Jayme, Thanks for visiting the site! You are one of more than 1.3 million people to do so in just the past few months. I hope you took a second to join the team and get your very own free America Supports You dog tag to show your support for our troops. One of the neat things about the America Supports You effort is that we are communicating all of the wonderful things Americans are doing every day in their communities to our troops around the world - and the troops are writing back with emotional messages of thanks and gratitude. You are right that in some far off places where our military men and women serve Internet access can be a little restricted. However, as you noticed from the varied locations our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines wrote in from, the Department is doing a great job in expanding access around the globe. From sailors on deployment in the South Pacific to soldiers in Northern Iraq, DoD Internet cafés are providing a much needed link to friends and family back home.

Alyson, from Louisiana writes:
Hello from another Alyson, just different spelling Secretary Barber, do you have any special or memorable stories you have learned about or encountered that ordinary americans are doing to help support our troops?

thank you.

Allison Barber
Allyson, I hardly know where to begin with this question. We have tried to highlight many of these stories on our website I was touched by the 15 year old, Shawna Fleming who collected over one million thank you notes for the military. I think it is also really great that several veterans get up at the crack of dawn to be at the airport to welcome home our military members. Every initiative is important and we are so grateful that Americans continue to show great support for our military members.

Kurt, from Herndon Virginia writes:
How can I encourage my children (ages 7 and 13) to help support the military? I think it is really important for them to learn how our military is helping our country. Thank you for your guidance.

Allison Barber
Kurt, Thank you for that great question - and thank you for caring enough about our military men and women to want to teach your children about the great work they are doing to protect our freedoms! I think one of the most important things you can do to help encourage your children to support our military is to help them understand the sacrifices they are making to make our world a safer place. Rather than focus on the far away war on terror, talk to your kids about the families whose dads and moms have deployed. Encourage your children to get involved at their local school with efforts to support families of deployed servicemembers. On our website,, there is an entire section dedicated to what children around the country are doing to support our military. And when your kids get involved, share with us what they are doing in your community so we can help tell their story of support to our military members.

Allison Barber
Before I go I just want to thank everyone who logged in today to talk about our great military men and women. I hope you have all had a chance to visit the web site, and that sometime today or this weekend you will take a moment to join the team and send a message of support to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving our nation around the world. Thanks again for all of your great questions and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

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