WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 2, 2008) - Secretary of the Army Pete Geren launched the National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign during a ceremony Thursday open to Soldiers and Army employees in the Pentagon auditorium.

"You live a life of service to others," Geren said, addressing Soldiers as well as civilians, "This is one more way you can touch the lives of others, a way to help make lives for others."

Last year the Army's goal was to raise $2.8 million, Geren said, and they exceeded it, raising nearly $3.4 million.

"This year the Army's goal is to raise $2.95 million, and there is no doubt that with your help we will meet and beat our goal," he said.

Purple Heart recipient Staff Sgt. Christopher Payne lost his left leg above the knee in 2005 while removing improvised explosive devices in Iraq. Shortly after he was admitted to Walter Reed, his wife gave birth to their second child. Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance to troops and their families, provided Payne and his family an apartment near Walter Reed.

"It was great for me," he said, explaining how living with his family during rehabilitation improved his morale. Since moving in, he said his rehabilitation has improved "200 percent."

Payne emphasized the importance of helping Soldiers to find a connection with the CFC, because sometimes the campaign is overlooked.

"Before I was injured, I had no idea how many organizations were out there," Payne said. "Being injured gave me a connection" to other charities.

The audience was excited about the start of the campaign as well. Col. Tim Burke, attending for leadership in the Chief Information Office/G-6, said it was enlightening to hear what the speakers had to say.

"I believe many will be inspired to look at what options there are for supporting the CFC," he said.

Burke believes the campaign will provide people a way to be instantly aware of various charities, and will allow the opportunity for people to focus their support on an area of interest.

Katie Dankowski, a representative from the Make-a-Wish-Foundation, enthusiastically encouraged the audience to participate in the campaign. The foundation grants children with life-threatening diseases their biggest wish. A wish recipient, Katie was able to meet Michael Jordan, her "idol," and knows first-hand the importance of CFC donations.

"I know how difficult treatments can be, and you guys make the difference in our lives," she said, thanking the audience for past generosity. "You make the wish."

The CFC is the world's largest workplace charity drive and raises millions of dollars every year to assist 4,000 charities through donations from federal employees and servicemembers. The CFC supports eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

(Editor's note: An article by J.D. Leipold contributed to this report.)