recipients of this year's Spirit of Hope Award epitomize the legacy
of entertainer Bob Hope, selflessly taking care of the military's
"most precious resource" -- its people -- the Coast Guard commandant
"They're the ones who instill hope in those who
serve and those who continue to serve," Adm. Paul F. Zukunft said in
tribute to the five individuals and one organization recognized at
the Pentagon with the 2015 Department of Defense Spirit of Hope
The award is named for Hope, an actor and comedian who
entertained U.S. troops for decades and was named an honorary
veteran in 1997, Zukunft said, calling the award an emblem of Hope's
character, integrity and statesmanship.
Hope, who performed
for troops with USO shows around the globe, was 100 years old when
he died in 2003.
The award recognizes Americans who share
Hope's "enthusiastic patriotism, and compassion and admiration for
the men and women who support and defend the Constitution of the
United States," the admiral said.
This year's honorees
contributed a tremendous amount of time and resources and supported
members of the military and their families, helped wounded warriors
and their loved ones, and strengthened their communities through
their dedicated service, Zukunft said.
Recipients Humbled, Honored
Every year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint
Staff -- as well as the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and
Coast Guard -- each nominate one individual or organization whose
patriotism and service represents that exemplified by Hope.
"It's just very humbling," honoree Air Force Tech Sgt. Rebecca
Martin -- an active duty airman, wife, mother of
three and a full-time student -- was recognized for volunteering
more than 1,100 hours of her time and using her personal resources
and energy to help service members and their families.
"That's just what we should represent as service members. It's
something that as humans, we need to do," she said. "It's just
Her sense of service was instilled by her father,
she said, an Army veteran who served during the Korean War and who
was in attendance at the Pentagon ceremony.
The Coast Guard's
honoree, Suzanne Maas, said she saw a need for morale boosting in
that service, so over the past eight years, she has donated
resources totaling $1.3 million through the Maas Family Foundation.
The donations, funded solely through the foundation, include
thousands of electronic devices and related gift cards sent to
deployed Coast Guardsmen and to crews and families of units that
"I get these wonderful, wonderful letters,"
Maas said, including one from a young man who was able to see the
ultrasound image of his yet-to-be-born son thanks to a donated
device. "That really just brought me to tears," she added.
Both Maas and Martin said they were humbled and honored to have been
selected, especially because so many others deserve recognition for
their work on behalf of service members and their families.
Other honorees of the 2015 Spirit of Hope Award are country music
star Toby Keith, who was nominated by the Office of the Secretary of
Defense and the Joint Staff and whose award was accepted by a
representative; Dana Hinesly, who was nominated by the Army; the
Quantico Injured Military Sportsmen Association, nominated by the
Marine Corps; and Sandra Lehmkuhler, who was nominated by the Navy.
Volunteers Help in Challenging Times
Because of the selfless service of U.S. military members, the
nation can enjoy its freedom, Zukunft said. But the country has been
at war for the last 14 years, he said, and "we don't see any end in
The work of volunteers is especially critical in
these challenging times, Zukunft said, with the services stretched
thin with finite resources to meet many global challenges.
"We live at a point in time in history like no other," he said. "Our
military remains on point and on guard to defeat threats that
challenge our security at home and our interests abroad, and that is
more difficult now than ever."
Recipients of the 2015 Spirit
of Hope Award are:
The recipients of the 2015 Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award pose for a photo with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, right, who presided over the award ceremony at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2015. Left to right, the recipients are a representative who accepted the award for country music star Toby Keith, nominated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff; Dana Hinesly, nominated by the Army; a representative of the Quantico Injured Military Sportsmen Association, nominated by the Marine Corps; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Martin, nominated by the Air Force; Sandra Lehmkuhler, nominated by the Navy; Suzanne Maas, nominated by the Coast Guard; and Zukunft.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)
Toby Keith, Nominated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense
Toby Keith frequently visited American soldiers at forward
operating bases in international war zones and entertained troops at
military bases across the globe. He has participated in 11 USO
tours, performed more than 200 shows in 14 countries and aboard four
ships at sea, and selflessly lifted the spirits of over 250,000
brave service men and women. Keith's talent and support extend
beyond the stage, when he created Pros 4 Vets, a nonprofit
organization that focused solely on the well-being of veterans and
their families. This organization not only created greater awareness
of the challenges faced by American service members, veterans and
their families, but also brought together the talents and skills of
wide-range of professionals in support of service members. Keith
served as advocate for veterans and worked tirelessly to ensure that
their needs get the help and support that they deserve.
Hinesly, Nominated by the Army
Dana Hinesly worked with six
nonprofit organizations that supported service members and military
patient care. Her care for the men and women of the military was
showcased as they awaited Operation Iraqi Freedom and
change-of-duty-station flights in the Bob Hope USO at Los Angeles
International Airport. Hinesly worked the “red eye” shift at the
lounge, making meals for service members and caring for their
children so they could sleep between connecting flights. She also
volunteered at the recreational therapy department in the spinal
cord injury unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Long
Beach, California, with the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports
Clinic, and at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Sandra K. Lehmkuhler, Nominated by the Navy
Lehmkuhler served as the founder and president of the board of
directors for the Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station. Through her
leadership, this organization improved the quality of life of more
than 1,400 service members and their families. It provided travel
support to more than 350 parents of injured service members,
purchased 325 plane tickets for wounded warriors traveling home for
the holidays, and acquired mobile devices loaded with specialized
software that assisted 13 warriors with the impact of traumatic
brain injuries. The foundation procured special sunglasses for those
injured by improvised explosive device blasts, as well as service
dogs, modified combat boots for prosthetic limbs and lightweight
wheelchairs to increase the mobility of injured service members.
Lehmkuhler opened Freedom Station, a 12-unit recovery transitional
center and housing complex designed to serve medical retired
warriors with the acclimation time, guidance and resources to
successfully transition to civilian life.
Military Sportsmen Association, Nominated by the Marine Corps
The Quantico Injured Military Sportsmen Association provided
combat-wounded and other seriously injured and ill military veterans
undergoing treatment at area military hospitals the opportunity to
experience hunting and fishing adventures in the company of fellow
veterans and sportsmen. The nonprofit, volunteer program operated on
Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, conducted more than 840
individual hunting, fishing or outdoor adventures with wounded
warriors and provided more than 3,300 prepared and catered meals to
the injured and their families.
Air Force Tech Sgt. Rebecca
V. Martin, Nominated by the Air Force
Tech Sgt. Rebecca
Martin donated more than 1,100 hours of her time, personal
resources, and energy working with 18 community and base
organizations and committees to help service members and their
families. She volunteered for various events and catered to the
well-being of unaccompanied airmen living in base dormitories, newly
assigned military members and families with deployed spouses. Martin
served as the sole registration school lead for the 2014 Joan Mann
Special Sports Day, a Special Olympics event that is sponsored by
U.S. service members in the United Kingdom. Her efforts enabled 411
British special needs athletes and providers to attend, which was
the largest turnout in the event's 33 year history. Martin's service
extended to leadership roles supporting the RAF Mildenhall Child
Development Center, Women and Child Domestic Violence and Safe
Houses, airmen food pantries, hospice charity shops, and orphanages
in Lithuania and Croatia.
Suzanne Maas, Nominated by the
Over a span of eight years, Suzanne Maas donated
resources totaling $1.3 million that allowed the men and women of
the Coast Guard with opportunities to break away from the stressors
of life and to find some rest, relaxation, and enjoyment. She has
donated thousands of tablets and iTunes cards to deployed crews in
additional to crews and families of units that tragically lost
shipmates. During the response to Hurricane Katrina, Maas funded a
morale picnic for hundreds of Coast Guard responders. She “adopted”
the units stationed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by boosting morale
with barbeques, climbing walls and most recently, resurfacing their
By Lisa Ferdinando
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
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