Weekend filled with patriotism

Former Texas A&M President Robert Gates will be honored on Friday afternoon with the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, and Aggie athletics will continue the patriotic trend throughout the weekend. Aggie Websider has all the details surrounding this weekend's festivities.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Texas A&M University and the 12th Man has stood ready to support the United States of America whenever called upon, just as the campus has supported its various Aggie teams. Surrounding the Aggie football game this weekend against Kansas are plenty of activities remembering those who have fought and served our country.

The festivities begin on Friday at 5 p.m. at Reed Arena as George Bush, 41st President of the United States, presents current Defense Secretary Dr. Robert M. Gates the 2007 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

President George Bush will present the award to the career intelligence officer, who will join former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, evangelist Billy Graham and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as Bush Award recipients.

"Outside his family, the one constant running through Bob Gates' life is his commitment to duty and his country," said President Bush. "Everywhere he has gone both in and out of public service, the secretary is always recognized for his integrity, his intellect, and his devotion to excellence. Bob Gates is one of the finest men we have in public life today, and is a most worthy recipient of this 2007 award."

Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense on Dec. 18, 2006. Prior to that, he served as president of Texas A&M University, the nation's seventh largest university, between August 2002 and December 2006; and as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001. Gates also served as director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993, and is the only career officer in CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to Director.

Before his nomination and confirmation to serve as the director of Central Intelligence in 1991, Gates served as deputy director of Central Intelligence from 1986 until 1989 and as assistant to the president and deputy National Security Advisor at the White House from January 20, 1989, until November 6, 1991. He has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

The George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service recognizes an individual's or group's dedication to public service at the local, state, national or international levels. The award underscores President Bush's long service and commitment to public service. Recipients of the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service receive a custom crystal sculpture designed by Eric Hilton for Steuben of New York, as well as a monetary prize.

In excess of 83,000 are expected for the football game and Texas A&M donated more than 300 tickets to deploying soldiers and their family members with the 4th Infantry Division's Special Troops Battalion and an additional 100 to World War II veterans from the Brazos Valley.

On gameday, the Military Tribute will begin with Aggie linebacker Mark Dodge being presented the Pat Tillman Patriot Award by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The award is presented to a college athlete who has already served in the military.

Dodge, a senior from Yerington, Nevada, served four years in the Army before returning to college to pursue his education and football career. Dodge was present at the Pentagon on 9/11 and also served as a member of the Presidential Honor Guard.

The inaugural award was presented to the Tillman family at a ceremony at Arizona State University.

Presenting the award will be Colonel Al Zambrano, Aggie Class of '60, United States Air Force retired and past National Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart, John Lichtenberger, Aggie Class of '88, United States Army, retired. The Military Order of the Purple Heart consists of 39,000 combat wounded veterans from all wars.

At halftime, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band will perform and at the conclusion of its drill, all World War II veterans will be honored. During World War II, more than 20,000 Aggies served our country with 14,000 commissioned as officers and 29 reaching the rank of general.

During the 1943-44 and 1944-45 school years, the enrollment figures at Texas A&M fell to a little over 2,000 students. Despite the small enrollment, the 1943 Aggie football team, better known as the "Kiddie Corps", posted a 7-2-1 record and played in the Orange Bowl.

At the conclusion of halftime, a special Navy Commendation with "V" device for valor will be presented to 1st Lt. Dan Moran, a Marine, who was the Combined Band Commander of the Aggie Band as a senior in 2003. He will be presented the commendation by President Bush and Secretary of Defense Dr. Gates.

Other activities surrounding Aggie football include the Aggie Fan Zone which will open at 2:30 p.m. in front of the Zone and G. Rollie White Coliseum.

Members of the 2007-08 Aggie men's basketball team will be on hand to sign autographs. The Aggies reached the Sweet 16 last year in the NCAA Championships.

Some former Texas A&M football players who have played on Super Bowl Championship teams will sign autographs as well.

The Aggie Spirit Walk for the football team should begin at 3:30 p.m. at the corner of Joe Routt and Houston Street.

The football game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. central and will be televised by ESPN2. For more information, go to AggieAthletics.com.




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