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An Honor for Adrienne Howard '91

For 20 years now, Washington and Lee alumna Adrienne Weatherford Howard, of the Class of 1991, has moved from base to base — 14 moves in all — as her husband, Navy Cmdr. Colby Howard, has received new assignments.

Cmdr. Howard is now the commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer Dewey, based in San Diego, Calif., where Adrienne lives.

Throughout this time, Adrienne came to realize just how important family support is to members of the military. So she decided to create an adopt-a-sailor program, recruiting people to support her husband’s unmarried sailors with letters, birthday cards and care packages.

Because of her initiative, Adrienne was a special guest of first lady Michelle Obama and vice presidential spouse Jill Biden at the State of the Union Address on Jan. 24. (For a picture of Adrienne and a short bio, go to this page on the White House site and roll over the last chair on the right in the second row.)

Adrienne got her invitation, in part, because she wrote about her efforts on the Joining Forces blog of the first lady and Dr. Biden. Her post, Joining Forces for Our Sailors, described her plan. Here is part of what she wrote there:

The Navy does a great job supporting the families so that they can, in turn, support their Sailors. During this time, I couldn’t help thinking: what about the guys and girls who aren’t married? What about the ones who don’t come from strong family backgrounds? Who is going to support them? Who is going to make sure they have something at mail call? Who is going to send them a Christmas card? A birthday card? The crew of the ship is largely young and unmarried, many of them doing their first deployment. Knowing how important little bits of home are to the crew, surely we could figure out a way to get little bits of home to these Sailors.

Adrienne’s invitation to sit in the first lady’s box resulted in numerous interviews. Media in both her hometown of Lynchburg — WSLS-TV and the Lynchburg News and Advance both featured her story — and also in San Diego on KGTV and in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

As she told the Union-Tribune, “I don’t think me being chosen was about me. I think it was the fact that I represent the kind of volunteerism that is seeking — for civilians to join our military.”