By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2013 – The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld today presented John Barnes, leader of Panther Racing, one the oldest continually operating teams in the Indy Racing League, with the Spirit of Hope Award for his on-going efforts to hire veterans.
In addition to earning the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff nomination, Barnes has been repeatedly recognized for great strides in challenging community leaders to support ongoing hiring efforts through Hiring Our Heroes, a group that advocates hiring veterans.
In remarks to The Pentagon Channel, Winnefeld said that in the spirit of the special talent of veteran entertainer Bob Hope, who the award was named for, the decision to nominate Barnes was easy.
“That is what epitomizes John Barnes … a special talent for organization, [a] special platform in the Indy car racing circuit and a special audience that enabled him to … bring to life the opportunity to give a lot of veterans jobs,” Winnefeld said. “There are an awful lot of veterans out there today who are employed because of John Barnes’ direct efforts that connect them with employers across the country.”
The vice chairman commended the selfless service of people who help an all-volunteer military.
“We honor these people because they honor us … [and] make life a little better for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and the Coast Guard,” he said. “I’m immensely proud of John and all the other awardees today for the contributions they’ve made to our wonderful people in military service.”
Don Wiegand, who sculpted the life-size bas-relief of Hope on which the reduced image and mints of The Spirit of Hope art medals are based, read a letter from the actor’s daughter, Linda Hope.
“This award has great meaning for our family as it shows the impact of our father’s legacy of giving back,” Hope wrote. “He was particularly compelled to share his gift of laughter with those men and women who were willing to give their lives for their country.”
Other winners were:
Army – Wayne C. Bard
Marines – Staff Sgt. Jared C. Coons
Navy – Laura Baxter
Air Force – Capt. Matthew C. Addison (deployed)
Coast Guard – James J. Coleman