FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- An Army veteran and an actor and humanitarian were honored at the 59th Annual Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation Luncheon May 5 at the Marriott Hotel in Kansas City, Mo.
This event is held annually on or before the May 8 birthday of the late President Truman.
Gary Sinise received the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award and Aurelia High School graduate Captain Mollie E. Keith received the Philip Pistilli Silver Veteran's Medal during the awards luncheon. Both recipients have shown the world how technology can be used to fight crime, although that is not the reason why they were given these awards.
The Truman Good Neighbor Award was established in 1973 to honor a person whose "good neighbor" actions embody the principles of Harry S. Truman.
The Pistilli Award, also established in 1973, was originally created to recognize the accomplishments of Vietnam veterans. Soon after, it was expanded to include the veterans of all wars.
Sinise began his acting career in 1974 when he founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago with two of his friends. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1994 for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in "Forrest Gump." He has appeared in many films, including "The Green Mile," "Apollo 13," "Of Mice and Men" and "The Stand." Sinise received the 1995 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the 33rd president in the movie "Truman."
Sinise's humanitarian accomplishments include being an active booster of the USO and co-founder of the organization Operation International Children, which helps provide school supplies to children through American troops. He helped to establish the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., and has traveled the world to visit and entertain members of the American military. In December 2008, Sinise was awarded the United States of America Presidential Citizens Medal for his work with the USO and Operation Iraqi Children, which is now called Operation International Children.
"Sinise is here today because of his unparalleled work to benefit children overseas and to support American veterans," Zobrist said.
"While the career of Gary Sinise has been marked by significant professional contributions to American theater and film-making, his remarkable off-camera endeavors to aid and educate the children of Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations set the standard for being a good neighbor," Zobrist said in a press release for the luncheon.
While accepting the award, Sinise said there are "many good neighbors out there that are trying to do the right thing and trying to help people. I could name dozens of organizations and people that I admire who are doing similar work in support of our troops and our families and our children."
Brig. Gen. Scott L. Thoele, deputy commanding general of the Army National Guard-Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, presented the Pistilli Award to Keith, a Missouri Army National Guard Soldier who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The daughter of Rick and Dee Keith of Aurelia, she is currently the operations officer of the Biometric Identity Management Agency at the Pentagon.
"Captain Keith, you have definitely made an impact on the Global War on Terrorism with your work on biometrics in Afghanistan," Thoele said as he presented the award to Keith. "You have served your country bravely and proudly and it is my privilege and honor to present this award to you this morning."
In homage to Sinise, Keith said, "most of you may think of 'CSI: NY' ... and that's what you relate to biometrics. That's fine and well and I don't blame you, but I'm here to tell you that is not quite how it is."
"Let's say we have an Afghan citizen, and he wants to come work inside a base in Afghanistan," Keith explained. "What we do is we collect their biometrics and we run them through a database that we have in the U.S. If one of them hits and it really is indeed a bad person, let's say we pulled their fingerprint off a bomb, when that person comes back to get their badge to work on the installation, basically we say can you just step over here, and we give them flex cuffs instead. That is basically what biometrics does; that's the power of biometrics."
Keith, the daughter of Rick and Dee Keith of Aurelia, said she was humbled be her selection for the award.
"When I found out I would actually be receiving this award a feeling of pride and yet humility arose within me which I will carry forever," she said.
"President Harry S. Truman was a Missouri Guardsman as am I," she added. "He was a no nonsense straight shooter who left no question in our mind where (he) stood and trust me, as a Soldier, that is something to be appreciated."
Mollie Keith joined the Army National Guard in September of 1998, and graduated from Aurelia High School in 2000. She attended Missouri Valley College in Marshall, MO and took ROTC in college. Keith graduated in 2004 and taught 7th grade special education for three years.
In 2006, she received her Masters Degree from Lindenwood University. In 2005, Mollie was given her first Military Police Platoon command with the Missouri National Guard in Boonville, MO. Her platoon was called up for work in Guatemala and then was called up for Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, as a 1st Lieutenant, Mollie was given her first company command - the 1175th Military Police company in St. Clair, MO. Keith's company was immediately called up for service in Northern Iraq where they fought, patrolled, recruited, built and trained the soon to be Iraqi Police force.
She was promoted to the rank of Captain in December of 2008 while serving in Iraq. Upon her return in the spring of 2009 Mollie attended Captains College in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. In the early fall of 2009, she began work in Washington, DC as the staff officer for the Biometrics division. In December of 2009, Mollie was sent to Afghanistan with the Biometrics Division. She traveled throughout Afghanistan collecting, training and developing Biometrics programs.
Keith also made trips to Pakistan for data collection and training, and came back to the States in the late summer of 2010. She is currently serving as Operations Officer for Biometrics in the Pentagon.
Biometrics is basically the collecting, storing, and use of finger-prints, hand prints, facial, speech, eye scans and DNA.
Captain Keith also has a sister Melissa who does the in-flight refueling with the 185th out of Sioux City. She is currently doing flights over Libya helping to enforce the no-fly zone. Melissa has also refueled over Afghanistan and Iraq.