|Operation Tribute to Freedom debuts new Web site
Source: Army News Service, April 20, 2005
Operation Tribute to Freedom debuts new Web site
By Andrew Rothgaber
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 20, 2005) – A new Web site went online this past month for Operation Tribute to Freedom, a program to welcome Soldiers home and thank them for their service.
“We want to extend the ‘welcome home’ message by giving Soldiers opportunities to connect and share their Soldier stories with the American people through speaking and recognition events,” said Col. Richard H. Breen Jr., director of the Army’s Community Relations and Outreach Division, which manages OTF.
“Working with national media to highlight Soldiers in feature news stories is another way we ensure that no Soldier’s story goes untold,” Breen said.
Site designed for event organizers
The new Web site is designed to appeal to event organizers, veteran service organizations, media and others who want to offer Soldiers local and national opportunities to provide perspective and insight into their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, Breen said. Through the site, event organizers can increase visibility of their event by posting homecoming and recognition events online. In addition, they can request Soldiers and officers to speak at local and national events.
“Who is better qualified to speak about the Army and the war than a Soldier?” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Army chief of public affairs. “OTF helps the American people better understand the sacrifices of our troops — one Soldier’s story at a time.”
OTF brings returning Soldiers to events
Within the past three months, OTF, working in conjunction with public affairs officers, has coordinated Soldier participation in events ranging from local parades, festivals and MOAA meetings to national events like the State of the Union Address, the Fiesta Bowl and the Daytona 500.
“Our fans were overtaken with emotion and outwardly showed their appreciation when the Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan were recognized at FedExField. Including the Soldiers really gave them a better appreciation of how much the American people support and welcome them home,” said Mike Stevens, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Washington Redskins.
Soldiers interested in speaking or being recognized at local and national events can register as volunteers on the OTF Web site. An OTF representative will contact Soldiers through their PAOs to support events in their area.
OTF: Magnifying and amplifying Soldier Stories
OTF provides a valuable service to Soldiers and event organizers, but it also encourages Public Affairs officers at all levels to use the four services—Homecoming Support Service, Speakers Service, Recognition Service and Soldier News Service. “By working closely with PAOs, OTF helps to magnify all the great work that PAOs do on the local level by securing placements in national or specialty media outlets and by including Soldiers in high visibility events,” said Maj. Beth Avey, OTF project manager.
"Securing local and regional media for an event is one thing, but generating national media interest is more of a specialty that requires a strong network of contacts," said Travis Edwards, Strategic Outreach Officer at Ft. Lee, VA. "I contacted OTF to help generate national feature story interest in the Soldiers that competed and won the Culinary Arts Competition," said Edwards.
"OTF secured national media interest and passed the interview opportunities on to me. The national placements really help to amplify what we are doing locally," added Edwards.
“In essence, OTF is a combat multiplier for event organizers and PAOs, and for Family Readiness Groups planning homecoming activities,” said Breen. “All that PAOs and FRGs have to do is call us and we’ll work with them to extend their media and community outreach efforts. I know it seems too good to be true, but that’s what we do.”
For more information about how to use Operation Tribute to Freedom to tell Soldier’s stories, visit www.army.mil/otf