WASHINGTON -- Military Families have long been at the heart of readiness, said Army senior leaders, and after collectively sacrificing for years, they will receive the highest honor presented by the Association of the U.S. Army.
“The Army Family” -- which includes spouses, parents, siblings, children, and the loved ones of American Soldiers -- was selected by AUSA’s Council of Trustees to be the 2020 recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal.
“Soldiers have been tested with frequent short-notice deployments at home and abroad,” retired Gen. Carter Ham, AUSA president and CEO, said in a news release July 28. “And with the widespread disruption and uncertainty resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic, I think it’s most appropriate” to present this year’s award to the Army Family.
Since 1960, the Marshall Medal has been the organization’s top award given for distinguished public service. This year’s award will be presented during the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in October, which was changed to a virtual event due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Army Families make a tremendous amount of sacrifices to support our Soldiers, and we should take every opportunity to show our appreciation,” said Ryan D. McCarthy, secretary of the Army. “This award recognizes their selfless service, which is especially well-deserved this year due to the extra burdens placed on Army Families during the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The inherent challenges of Army life have only increased during these unprecedented times,” said Gen. James C. McConville, chief of staff of the Army. “Army Families have faced these challenges with a resilience and determination that inspires us all. They epitomize the Marshall award’s criteria of selfless service to the nation under extraordinary circumstances.”
There’s no better choice than “The Army Family,” said Dee Geise, chief of the Soldier and Family Readiness Directorate in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9.
“Army Families support their Soldiers through multiple deployments and PCS [permanent change-of-station] moves, often facing uncertainty and stress, career changes, and enduring frequent school transitions,” she said.
In other words, if Soldiers are worried about their Families, they may be unable to focus on their mission. That’s why, along with modernization and reform, “Army Families are a focal point for Army readiness,” she said.
Geise, who also leads the Quality of Life Task Force on behalf of Lt. Gen. Jason T. Evans, helps oversee the Army’s wide-ranging approach to programs intended to enrich the lives of military Families, which align with McConville’s “People First” philosophy.
Task force efforts include housing, health care, child care, spousal employment, and PCS moves.
“I take great pleasure in doing my job every day, and focus not only on challenges I had as an Army spouse, but hearing about new challenges,” Geise said. “The Quality of Life Task Force is finding a way to help Families to thrive in an uncertain environment.”
The announcement marks only the second time a group was chosen in lieu of a person. In 2004, the honor was given to “The American Soldier.”
“While we can never truly do enough to recognize all that Army Families do to ensure America’s Army remains strong and ready,” Ham said, “the Marshall Medal is one way to publicly thank Army Families who have been so important to the Army from the very beginning, through wars and conflict and continuing through today and into the future.”
The Marshall Medal is named in tribute to former Gen. of the Army George Catlett Marshall Jr., who held multiple high-ranking positions under presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, including secretary of state and secretary of defense.
Last year, retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was awarded the medal for his commitment to America’s armed forces.
Past awardees include multiple American presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush, as well as retired Army Gens. Gordon Sullivan, Lyman Lemnitzer, Colin Powell, Bernard Rogers, Maxwell Taylor, and John Vessey Jr.
Other winners include former defense secretaries, who also led the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates; comedian Bob Hope; actor Gary Sinise; and Duke University head basketball coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski.
The sacrifice and work of military Families reach far beyond the past year, Geise said. “And, while they face challenges every day, they continue to rise up and be strong, innovative, resilient, and supportive to one another and the Army mission.”