9th annual


                                    Hollywood and the military step out to honor service members, military spouses and celebrities on Sunday, February 8th at 7:00pm ET/PT on The History Channel  ---

Los Angeles, CA, January 29, 2004 – The ninth annual American Veteran Awards: A Tribute to Freedom presented by Anheuser-Busch Companies will premiere on The History Channel on Sunday, February 8, 2004 at 7:00pm ET/PT, helping kick-off the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week.  The show will also air later this year on American Forces Network.   

Produced in cooperation with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, American Veteran Awards (AVAs) is America’s only annual televised tribute to our U.S. Armed Forces.  The AVAs not only pays tribute to our military but also honors those in entertainment who portray the stories of our service members, veterans and spouses, providing a better understanding of our nation’s military and a deeper appreciation for those who fill its ranks. 

R. Lee Ermey (Mail Call) serves as Master of Ceremonies.  Presenters include James Woods, Jamie Farr, Jeffrey Katzenberg, James Denton (Threat Matrix), Karri Turner (JAG) and Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher), with performances by Crystal Gayle and Kimaya & Monty Seward.   

At the heart of the show are the inaugural Service Member Defense of Freedom Awards sponsored by AT&T and the Military Spouse Awards sponsored by Proctor & Gamble.  

The Service Member Defense of Freedom Awards sponsored by AT&T in association with the Department of Defense (DoD) honors five military service members, one from each branch of the service, for their achievements and acts of heroism during their deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom.  

“AT&T is pleased to pay tribute to these defenders of freedom,” said Rosemary O’Brien, general manager of AT&T Military Markets.  “Their selfless acts in battle have made them heroes and role models to all Americans.  By honoring them, we pay tribute as well to the many service members distinguishing themselves daily in the service of our country.” 

  • Sergeant Clinton D. Strock (Army) from Lebanon, Ind., is being honored for his bravery while helping protect U.S. forces from injury or death, as well as protecting the local Afghan population, by neutralizing hazards that threatened them, including rockets and explosives. Strock had a direct role in the safe disposal of 260,000 lbs. of captured enemy ordinances.

·         Sergeant Michael A. Simmons (Marine Corps) from Union, Mo. is being honored for his valor and fortitude in conducting humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. Simmons helped lead his platoon safely from enemy fire, providing effective cover fire while vehicles moved back. He was struck on the wrist during engagement, yet continued to lead his vehicle out of the engagement area. 

  • Commander P. Gardner Howe (Navy) from Jacksonville, Fla., is being honored for his leadership and tactical innovation that resulted in the timely seizure of the oil infrastructure in the Al Faw peninsula and corresponding oil platforms at sea, precluding regime attempts to cause an environmental disaster and threaten the Iraqi infrastructure.
  • Staff Sergeant Jason R. Blodzinski (Air Force) from Buffalo, N.Y., is being honored for volunteering to accompany Special Forces ground teams on a difficult reconnaissance mission along enemy lines in Afghanistan. Despite coming under heavy fire, Blodzinski directed multiple precision air strikes against numerous Taliban targets.

·         Lieutenant Holly R. Harrison (Coast Guard) from Vienna, Va., is being honored for uncommon bravery and tactical brilliance while acting as the first line of defense for Coalition Naval Forces and providing protection for mine hunters within the established mine danger-areas of the internal waters of Iraq.  

The inaugural Military Spouse Awards sponsored by Procter & Gamble Military Markets in association with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) honors four military spouses: active duty, retiree, guard/reserve and veteran.

  • Leane Palmer

      Guard/Reserve Honoree and wife of Captain Noel Palmer, Army Reserve

  • Ava Marie Conlin

      Active Duty Honoree and wife of Colonel Christopher C. Conlin, Marine Corps

  • Dianna Trussel

      Military Retiree Honoree and wife of First Class Petty Officer Tracy Trussel, Navy (Retired)

  • Sandra Joy Solari

      Military Veteran Honoree and wife of Captain Dennis Solari, Air Force (Retired) 

Other honorees at the AVAs include: 

Cliff Robertson  - Veteran of the Year Award

Madeleine Stowe  - Woman of Honor Award

Sam Elliott  - Audie Murphy Theatrical Award for Film

David James Elliott - Audie Murphy Theatrical Award for Television

Antwone Fisher Best Patriotic Picture Award (sponsored by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company)

Lonestar  - Elvis Presley Patriotic Song Award for I’m Already There

Wal-Mart - Corporate Patriotism Award  

About American Veteran Awards

American Veteran Awards (AVAs) is America's preeminent tribute uniting arts and entertainment with the patriotic fabric of our nation - our past, present and future military and their families.  The AVAs is an annual project of Veterans Foundation Incorporated, a 24-year old nationally recognized non-profit, non-political, non-membership 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit: www.avashow.com

Military spouses honored

during televised “American Veteran Awards”

Defense Commissary Agency Director Maj. Gen. Michael P. Wiedemer (left) applauds (l-r) Sandra Joy Solari, Ava Marie Conlin, Dianna Trussel and Leane Palmer as they accept the inaugural Military Spouse Awards for veteran, Guard/Reserve, retiree and active duty spouses. The presentations are part of the “American Veteran Awards” airing on The History Channel, Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. EST and PST; 6 p.m. CST; and 5 p.m. MST. (Photo courtesy American Veteran Awards.)

By Bonnie Powell 

FORT LEE, Va. – Serving one’s country often means sacrifice and hardship, but it’s not only the military member who sacrifices. Military spouses are often the unsung heroes on the home front. Four spouses representing active duty, Guard and Reserve, retirees and veterans are recognized with inaugural Military Spouse Awards during the 9th annual “American Veteran Awards: A Tribute to Freedom,” Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. EST and PST; 6 p.m. CST; and 5 p.m. MST on The History Channel. The awards air on American Forces Network at a later date.

A star-studded affair, this year’s awards feature Cliff Robertson, Madeleine Stowe, Sam Elliott, James Woods, David James Elliott, Crystal Gayle and many others. But the real star is the United States military. The military spouse honorees for 2003 are Reserve/Guard spouse Leane Palmer of Thorton, Colo.; active duty spouse Ava Marie Conlin of Chesapeake, Va.; veteran spouse Sandra Joy Solari of Warner Robins, Ga.; and retiree spouse Dianna Trussel of Panama City, Fla.

Though the actual awards presentation was taped Nov. 21 in Los Angeles, one winner may not believe it until she sees it on TV. “I’m still in shock,” said Dianna Trussel. Her husband Tracy, a retired Navy petty officer first class, was handed a nomination form at the Tyndall Air Force Base commissary in Florida. “When I saw what they were looking for on the nomination form I knew that was Dianna,” he said. The couple shop regularly at the Tyndall commissary and he works on the base.

It became real enough for Trussel and the other honorees when Maj. Gen. Michael P. Wiedemer, director of the Defense Commissary Agency, joined Karri Turner of “JAG,” and James Denton of “Threat Matrix” for the awards presentation. “DeCA recognizes the enormous sacrifices that service members and their families make for the United States of America,” he said. “We also recognize the hardships our armed services family members endure during frequent and lengthy deployments overseas. They, too, deserve respect and admiration.”

Procter & Gamble Military Markets was the sponsor of the first-ever American Veteran Awards’ Military Spouse Awards. The nomination process stemmed from a worldwide commissary promotion in early November. Over 1,000 nominations were received in just 10 days. “We are surprised and pleased with the tremendous response,” said Paula Parsons, marketing manager for P&G Military Markets. “Entries came from all over the world by e-mail, fax and mail for this inaugural award!” A staggering 86 percent of the nominations were done online either through a link at http://www.commissaries.com, http://www.militaryshoppers.com or http://www.avashow.com.

A selection board determined honorees based on how nominees exemplified support to the community, volunteerism, selflessness and strength. Each entry required a 500-word essay to support it.

“The sacrifices of our country’s military spouses often go unrecognized,” said Harry Shaw, President and CEO of American Veteran Awards. “It is for this reason that American Veteran Awards is so proud to introduce this long overdue honor in association with DeCA and Procter & Gamble. The four honorees are truly the heart of this year’s show and represent the selfless sacrifices of all military spouses.”

Each honoree has a roster of outstanding accomplishments. The veteran spouse honoree might as well have “veteran” as her middle name. Sandra Joy Solari, spouse of retired Air Force Capt. Dennis Solari, is president of the ladies auxiliary of the Warner Robins VFW Post 6605, and goes above and beyond the call for veterans at the nearby VA hospital and the war veterans home.

Leane Palmer, spouse of Army Reserve Capt. Noel Palmer, exemplifies the experience of Guard and Reserve spouses all over America in 2003 as their husbands or wives were activated to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Juggling work and family on the home front became a fine art, but Palmer still found time to help her husband’s entire battalion endure 120-degree heat in Iraq – by making 600 neck coolers.

Ava Marie Conlin gave up her commission in the Navy to support her spouse, Marine Col. Christopher C. Conlin, when he first took command of a battalion at Twentynine Palms, Calif. She quickly assumed the role of key volunteer advisor, and when a battalion wife died suddenly, leaving two children and a deployed husband behind, Conlin stepped in to take care of the family – paying for hotel rooms out of her own pocket.

Dianna Trussel has made a career out of helping military families. Whether it is volunteering for Navy and Marine Corps relief, opening her home to battered families, serving as a one-woman welcome wagon, collecting coupons to send overseas, or working for the Bay County Council of Aging, Trussel’s longtime motto of “making a positive change wherever we go” has stood the test of time. “I don’t think I will ever stop helping people,” she said. “To borrow from a Shirley Chisolm quote, that’s how we pay our rent for the privilege of living here on earth!”

Other prestigious awards given on the American Veteran Awards broadcast include the Service Member Defense of Freedom awards honoring five military service members from each branch of service for their achievements during their deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

American Veteran Awards (AVA) is America’s pre-eminent tribute, uniting arts and entertainment with the patriotic fabric of our nation – our past, present and future military and their families. AVA is an annual project of Veterans Foundation Incorporated, a 23-year-old nationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonmembership 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit http://www.avashow.com.

 - DeCA -

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of nearly 280 commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of 30 percent or more on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings worth more than $2,700 annually for a family of four. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.