WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 11, 2008) -- A college bowl game's highest honor was presented this week to an Army general who has been recognized for exemplary service to the nation.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, deputy commander, Special Operations Command - Europe, was presented with the 2008 AutoZone Liberty Bowl's Distinguished Citizen Award at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 9, 2008. The general was honored for embodying the founding principles of the 50-year-old bowl game.

"Having thought about what the bowl stands for -- Liberty -- and that this is a milestone year, we decided to honor someone in uniform," said AutoZone Liberty Bowl Association President Mike Longo.

"It is our honor to award the AutoZone Liberty Bowl's Distinguished Citizen Award to a great leader, a great friend, and a great citizen," Longo said.

Tovo joins a list of previous winners who have been awarded the honor since 1972, including Navy Vice Admiral William Lawrence, Air Force Lt. Col. John A. Dramesi and the late U.S. Congressman G.V. Sonny Montgomery.

"I feel honored to be included in such a great group of Americans," said Tovo. "This award really honors Army service of both the Soldiers and family members who are defending our nation in this critical time in our history; and they should be proud of their service."

Winners must have given outstanding service in his or her career field, demonstrated honor and integrity during their career and personal life and be viewed as a role model for young Americans.

"I'm honored that a member of the Army has been selected to receive the award," said Tovo. "It highlights the nation's respect for what the Army is doing for the country right now."

Nominations for the award were made by the Liberty Bowl Festival Association and were then considered by the AutoZone Liberty Bowl executive staff under the leadership of bowl president, Michael Longo.

Longo, a West Point graduate and former roommate of Tovo, served in the same company with the general when they were both lieutenants in their first assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Tovo accepted the award on behalf of all the Soldiers and family members serving the nation.

"Family members, like their servicemembers, are serving the nation," said Tovo. "They're part of the strength of the nation and this country and its citizens appreciate that."

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl is scheduled to be broadcast on both radio and television Jan. 2, 2009. The game will feature a match-up of teams from Conference USA and the Southeastern Conference.