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Defense Department praises 'Spirit of Hope'

Maj. Gen. Earl Matthews, the director of Cyberspace Operations, presents Tech. Sgt. Leray Smedley, from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., the Spirit of Hope Award at the Pentagon on Nov. 15, 2011. Smedley received the award for volunteering more than 300 hours, raising $66,000, and leading 3,000 military and civilian personnel toward serving the Beale AFB and local communities in 70 events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)

Maj. Gen. Earl Matthews, the director of Cyberspace Operations, presents Tech. Sgt. Leray Smedley, from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., the Spirit of Hope Award at the Pentagon on Nov. 15, 2011. Smedley received the award for volunteering more than 300 hours, raising $66,000, and leading 3,000 military and civilian personnel toward serving the Beale AFB and local communities in 70 events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Defense Department, the family of late actor and comedian Bob Hope, and the Wiegand Foundation honored six people with the Spirit of Hope Award for their selflessness and commitment to troops during a Pentagon ceremony Nov. 15.

Tech. Sgt. Leray Smedley, from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., was the Air Force recipient of the Spirit of Hope Award. Smedley received the award for volunteering more than 300 hours, raising $66,000, and leading 3,000 military and civilian personnel toward serving the Beale AFB and local communities in 70 events.

"We come together each year to present the Spirit of Hope Award, as we will do today, to individuals and organizations that were nominated by the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Office of the Secretary of Defense," said Michael L. Rhodes, the OSD director of administration and management.

The other Spirit of Hope Medal recipients are:

-- Janice Bridges, Army;

-- Ronald Katz, Marine Corps;

-- Petty Officer 1st Class Jamar Salters, Navy;

-- Elaine Savage, Coast Guard

Segs4Vets received the organization award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"(These) six recipients reflect the patriotism that Bob and Dolores displayed throughout their lives," Rhodes said. "They carry on the values that the Hopes represented -- honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication -- which are the criteria we place on the award."

Rhodes praised Hope, who died July 27, 2003, as "an American hero" and "self-proclaimed ambassador of goodwill."

"Both Bob and Dolores Hope will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Americans," Rhodes said, "especially with the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform of this nation and to defend our freedoms.

"For decades, they lifted our spirits, brought smiles to our faces and especially those of American service members around the world," he continued. "There are generations of troops who have stories about when they saw Bob Hope."

The U.S. Congress, he added, designated Hope an honorary veteran in 1997. Rhodes quoted then-President Bill Clinton who lauded Hope after signing the 1997 legislation: "In times of war and peace, good times and bad, he entertained our troops and brought them a familiar and comforting sense of home while they defended our nation's interests around the world."

"I'm so grateful to represent my family today, especially at this most prestigious and wonderful event," said Kelly Hope, Bob Hope's son. "Along with the Spirit of Hope, may today's deserving recipients grasp and take with them your best wishes and the spirit of God, who guides us all."