WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley honored four individuals with the Outstanding Civilian Service Award during the Chief of Staff of the Army Salute Thursday, Sept. 15.

"They love those who serve and want to make a true difference, not only for the nation, but they want to make a true difference for our Soldiers, our families," said Milley at the ceremony, which was held in conjunction with a twilight tattoo ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

The civilians honored that day included country musician Trace Adkins; John Bunch, founder of the nonprofit "Operation Open Arms"; Dr. Briana Goff, a researcher of traumatic brain injury; and Spencer Kympton, founder of the nonprofit "The Mission Continues."

Country musician Trace Adkins has used "his country music and success on the movie scene as a platform for supporting you and I in uniform and all of our families," Milley said.

The country musician is widely known for his public advocacy of the Wounded Warrior Project, and he also lends his talent to supporting "Til Duty is Done," a nonprofit organization that strives to eliminate veteran homelessness, and that also helps prepare veterans to re-enter the workforce, Miley said.

Adkins is also a strong supporter of Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization aimed at building strong military families that also provides mortgage-free homes to eligible injured veterans, Milley said.

Since 2002, Adkins has entertained around 50,000 Soldiers and family members at 100 performances on 45 military installations and in nine countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Milley said. Adkins was the first entertainer to travel to the Middle East with the USO.

OPEN ARMS

Merchant Marine Capt. John "GiddyUp" Bunch, a former Marine, decided to use his successful fishing charter as a platform to provide a unique service for veterans, Milley said.

Bunch was inspired by a conversation with a Soldier on leave from a combat zone to provide the Soldier with a free fishing charter, and the act of kindness rapidly expanded into what is known today as "Operation Open Arms."

Since it started in 2015, more than 150 businesses, associations and individuals in Florida have sponsored the organization, Milley said.

Besides providing vacations for service members, Operation Open Arms has facilitated weddings, paid for counseling services and, most recently, helped a family honor their Marine who died in a helicopter crash.

In all, Bunch has helped more than 3,400 service members with benefits valued at more than $12 million, Milley said.

Bunch is so humble and so focused that he once declined an invitation of personal thanks from former President George Bush for an invitation.

"Why did he turn it down? He did it to take a Soldier on a free charter to go fishing," Milley said.

"He didn't want to break his date with a Soldier to have a date with the president of the United States. He made his commitment to that sergeant six months prior, and he kept his commitment."

TBI RESEARCH

Dr. Briana S. Nelson Goff has taken the lead nationally to examine the effects of military deployments on service members and their families, Milley said.

She has served as a strong advocate for families as director of the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families at Kansas State University, where she specializes in identifying trauma symptoms among Soldiers and their family members.

Goff also teaches speech and language support for traumatic brain injury recovery and she researches the long-term effect of TBI on the well-being of veterans and families, the chief said.

In her work, she facilitates the collaboration on best practices between a large number of organizations as well as the military, aimed at understanding trauma and healing, he added.