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Work Salutes Spirit of Hope Honorees as ‘American Heroes’

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2016 — The recipients of this year's Spirit of Hope Award are American heroes who have selflessly supported the troops around the world, true embodiments of the values of Bob Hope, the legendary entertainer for whom the award is named, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said here today.

The six individuals and one organization being honored have generously contributed an extraordinary amount of time, talent, and resources to enhance the quality of life of service members and their families, Work said at the Pentagon ceremony.

The honorees are, he said, a "distinct group of American heroes, who through their efforts embody the magnificent spirit of Bob Hope in their kind, generous and heartfelt support to our troops and our civilians all over the world."

Boosted Spirits, Entertained Troops for Nearly 50 Years

Hope's boundless generosity, self-deprecating jokes, universal humor and impeccable comedic timing gave a lift to service members and greatly boosted morale, Work said.

"Beginning in May 1941, and continuing for nearly 50 years, Bob Hope brought his variety show to military camps and war zones across the globe to entertain the troops and provide them a brief escape from the trials of battle," Work said.

Hope flew millions of miles, headlining 57 separate USO tours from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and to installations around the world, most often over Christmas, Work said.

Congress designated Hope an honorary veteran in 1997 for his extraordinary work on behalf of service members, Work pointed out.

Carrying Legacy Forward

Today's honorees have made impacts large and small, both locally and worldwide, according to Michael L. Rhodes, the director of administration and management within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The honorees all reflect the patriotism that Hope and his wife of 69 years, Delores Hope, displayed throughout their lives, Rhodes said.

"Like the recipients before them, today's honorees are truly remarkable," Rhodes said. "They carry forward the legacy of Mr. Hope and they continue to serve those who protect this nation and the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis."

Bob Hope, who died in 2003, and Delores Hope, who passed away in 2011, will always be treasured by the American people, especially the millions who were touched by their generosity, selflessness and kindness, he said.

"Bob and Delores Hope will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Americans, but especially the men and women who wear the uniform of this nation," Rhodes said. "For decades, he and his wife lifted spirits and brought smiles -- they brought them to the faces of American service members serving all throughout the world."

The 2016 Spirit of Hope Award recipients are:

Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs, nominated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff

Singer Kellie Pickler and her songwriter-musician husband Kyle Jacobs are recognized for distinguished service to the members of the U.S. Armed Forces, their families, and service veterans, from 2007 to the present day. Pickler and Jacobs frequently visit American service members at forward operating bases in war zones and have entertained troops at military bases across the globe. They collectively participated in 10 USO tours, performing in 13 countries, at over 60 military bases, and on two aircraft carriers while selflessly lifting the spirits of over 40,000 brave men and women who serve our great nation and their families. Pickler and Jacobs’ talents and support extend beyond the stage in their service as USO ambassadors. They have auctioned-off personal possessions to benefit the USO Warrior and Family Care initiative and raised money and awareness for the USO on “Family Feud.”

Jennifer Pritzker, nominated by the Army

Jennifer Pritzker has selflessly served soldiers and citizens for 42 years. In 2003, she established the multi-million dollar Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago. Pritzker is active in developing future Army officers via generous contributions to the Army ROTC programs at Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois Chicago, and Norwich University. Pritzker serves on the USO's Board of Illinois and continues to make positive impacts in the lives of service members and veterans through the philanthropy of her corporation, Tawani Enterprises Inc.

Marc Tarter, nominated by the Marine Corps

Marc Tarter has been a tireless advocate for seriously wounded, ill, and injured explosive ordnance disposal Marines over the past seven years. He has spent countless hours of his own time, to include evenings, weekends and holidays, at hospitals assisting the wounded EOD Marines and their families. Tarter developed and facilitated a comprehensive resiliency program for Marine Corps EOD personnel. His examples resonated throughout the EOD operating forces, reinforcing the fact that wounded Marines won’t be forgotten and still have a place in the Marine Corps and EOD community.

Horses Helping Heroes Project, nominated by the Navy

Established in 2010, Horses Helping Heroes Project is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that offers equine-assisted activities and therapies at no cost to military veterans with special needs and disabilities residing in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads, Virginia, areas. A Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Member Center, the organization brings together a team of skilled horses and a group of dedicated fully-trained volunteers to teach the foundations of horsemanship and equine behavior. Their mission is to empower military veterans to face the challenges of mental, emotional, and physical wounds and to assist them in creating active, healthier and more fulfilling lives through equine-assisted activities. In 2015, the organization amassed over 1,080 volunteer hours at a value of $24,950 dollars and provided 526 onsite veteran service hours. Since its inception, Horses Helping Heroes Project has improved the quality of life of 72 military veterans. Debi Demick, the founder and program director, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

Timothy Bryant, nominated by the Air Force

Timothy Bryant provided unparalleled service to countless U.S. military veterans and the local community. As the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3000 commander, Bryant superbly led the organization in more than $92,000 of fundraising programs supporting outreach assistance for over 12,500 veterans in Southern California. His effort directly saved 32 indigent veterans and their families from homelessness.

Michael Smith, nominated by the Coast Guard

Michael Smith serves as the executive director of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on showcasing numerous Coast Guard missions and highlighting the important roles Coast Guard men and women play in the local community and in the nation’s security. Smith and the Coast Guard Festival committee support Western Michigan Coast Guard families year-round, with family friendly activities and support. The festival committee hosts an annual children’s holiday party for local Coast Guard children where they welcome local newborn “Coasties” into the world with gift cards for those families in need of baby items.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

Distribution channels: Military