WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- ThanksUSA, a non-profit organization providing scholarships to the children and spouses of U.S. servicemen and women, will honor Tom Brokaw, veteran NBC journalist and author of The Greatest Generation, at its annual Treasure Our Troops Gala on September 25 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The event will also honor Army Colonel Lanier Ward, the inspiration behind ThanksUSA, and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who represents 74 Missouri scholarship recipients and is a strong supporter of military families. This year's gala will be emceed by Lara Logan, chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News and "60 Minutes" correspondent.
"Mr. Brokaw's reporting from battlegrounds overseas and his compassionate coverage of our men and women in uniform here at home have enriched America's understanding of our military families' sacrifices," said Bob Okun, chairman and CEO of ThanksUSA. "He has made sure we never forget to say 'thank you' to our troops and their loved ones, and we're honored to take this opportunity to show him our appreciation."
"We are also proud to pay tribute to Col. Lanier Ward. His combat experiences, including a severe injury from an IED explosion, inspired my young daughters to set out on a quest to aid military families through academic scholarships, which will soon exceed $10 million," Okun said. "Over the past eight years, ThanksUSA has succeeded beyond our most ambitious dreams, and we are continuously grateful for the support and encouragement of public officials like Senator Roy Blunt, who give of themselves whenever called upon."
This year's Treasure Our Troops Gala will also present ThanksUSA's first posthumous award in the name of Army Cpl. Tomas Sotelo, Jr. of Houston, TX. The same IED explosion that injured Col. Ward also took the life of 20-year-old Cpl. Sotelo in Iraq in 2003.
"Tomas served as the gunner of the security vehicle that followed mine; he literally had my back," said Col. Ward. "He exemplifies the courage and sacrifice our young men and women and their families have made over the last 10 years, and I share this honor with every U.S. soldier, including Cpl. Sotelo."
Receiving the first Cpl. Tomas Sotelo Jr./ThanksUSA scholarship is Caitlyn Mitts, also a Houston native, and one of several students receiving grants at the gala. Caitlyn, who is studying Forensic Science at Texas A&M University, is the daughter of the late Staff Sgt. Charles Mitts of the Air National Guard, who died in a Blackhawk helicopter crash during a training exercise at Texas A&M four years ago.
"My dad was not only an incredible father, he also served his country with courage," said Caitlyn. "We all miss him terribly, but this scholarship lifts our spirits because it honors one of his fellow servicemen and recognizes the dedication of all who serve."
ThanksUSA is a non-partisan, charitable effort to mobilize Americans of all ages to "thank" the men and women of the United States armed forces. The organization provides college, technical and vocational school scholarships for the children and spouses of active-duty status military personnel. For more information, visit www.thanksusa.org.