BROWNSBURG — Because of his work with Connection Pointe Church’s Military Support Group, Gary Strader has been recognized by Gov. Mike Pence as a Distinguished Hoosier.
The group, which was founded in 2003, aims to honor the men and women who fight for the nation’s freedom.
Brenda Leive, one of the founding members of the group, said the goal is to make sure the soldiers know people are thinking of them.
“We do three major projects a year — big ones,” she said. “Then we send cards, letters, and we just work as hard as we can to show our appreciation to the troops.”
At a soup dinner for the group on Saturday night, Sgt. Major Mike Lucas, who has been in the U.S. Army for 38 years and has witnessed the kindness the group bestows on troops firsthand, addressed members before surprising Strader with the award.
“It is very humbling and very rewarding to be overseas, away from your families, and basically out of the clear blue, get one of these wonderful little flat rate boxes from the states and that glorious little sticker that says, ‘Connection Pointe Christian Church,’” Lucas said. “You all have blessed me and my soldiers on at least two deployments.”
Lucas said the work this group does isn’t for the recognition.
“These great Americans just want to reach out to people somewhere,” he said. “They just want to share a little bit of God’s blessing and their personal love of people they don’t even know.”
He said one person in particular has gone above in beyond in honoring America’s soldiers.
“There is one among you that uses his love and his passion and his skills in various different ways,” he said. “I have seen some of the video products this man has done that are just awesome. They tug at your heart, they make you stand up strong and make you puff out your chest and make you want to put your arms around that young man or that young woman in uniform the next time you see them.”
He then asked Strader to stand up.
“Your fellow members here sent a little note to Gov. Pence of some of the things that you have done for this church, the community and people throughout the state and for many, many of us that served overseas,” Lucas said. “And so Gov. Pence, who’s a great patriot himself and has a great love of service members and their families, agreed.”
He then began reading from a letter Pence had sent. According to that letter, the Distinguished Hoosier Award is meant for a person who “distinguish(es) themselves through significant contributions to their communities and whereas the qualities and characteristics of such individuals reflect the best of the great State of Indiana.”
After being presented with the award, Strader gave all the credit back the members of the group.
“I appreciate it, I really do, but you know, this isn’t about me because … I don’t do anything,” Strader said. “You folks are the ones that pack those boxes, that contribute that stuff, that write those notes, that put those letters in those boxes, that have your kids make out those cards, and then pack them up and send them off. That’s all you. This should have every one of your names on it because this is really about you.”
He added that what makes this group great is the dedication that each member displays year in and year out.
The award will serve as a reminder to the group, Strader said.
“I’ll treasure this and I’ll look at it and every time I do, I’ll think about you and I’ll think about what you’ve done and how you’ve made all this possible,” he said.
After the presentation, Strader said he got involved with the group after losing his son in a battle in Fallujah in November 2004. He said he was looking for a way to honor soldiers.
“I really want to be a part of a group of folks that are trying to recognize and remember that we do have people deployed and serving us,” he said. “So my wife Janet and I became involved with this group and we started doing things. It’s just grown from there.”
He said the award affirms the work that has been done.
“(The award) just identifies that we’ve been at this for a long time now and … we’ve been consistent and we’ve just done our best with what we’re trying to do,” Strader said. “(When) guys like Mike come back and let us know that it meant something ... that really just re-energizes us to keep on doing these things for those guys that are out there.”
For more information on Connection Pointe's Military Support Group, visit the website at www.cpmsglife.org.
Connection Pointe Church is at 1800 N. Green St., Brownsburg.