SU Alumna Receives White House Honor
Published on October 18, 2011
Michelle 'Chelle' McIntyre-Brewer, a 2001 graduate of Susquehanna University, will be honored this week with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award. The Jefferson, Md., resident is being recognized “for going above and beyond on behalf of our troops and their families,” according to the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary.
As founder of Soldier’s List, a support organization for service members and their families, McIntyre-Brewer works with military families, especially those dealing with exceptional hardships, to ensure they receive ample support before, during and after deployment. On Oct. 20, President Obama will welcome McIntyre-Brewer and 12 other recipients to the White House to receive their medals.
Established in 1969, the Citizens Medal “recognizes American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” According to the press secretary’s office, nearly 6,000 public nominations were submitted for the medal.
Supporting Military Families
McIntyre-Brewer founded Soldier's List in 2003 to support high-risk service members and their families facing such hardships as lack of family support, marital issues and the acute special needs of spouses and children. To this end, she has worked diligently with the military community to educate families about their rights and responsibilities under Tricare, the health plan serving active-duty military members, and other available services.
Founded in response to the wars in the Middle East, Soldier’s List began as a way for people to connect with deployed military members and show their support. “Over time,” McIntyre-Brewer says, “it molded itself into an organization that is a clearinghouse for information.” She says that, to date, the organization has:
- Mailed about 16,000 care packages to service members around the world;
- Acted on behalf of approximately 21,160 soldiers and their families during medical crises;
- Managed Socks for Vets, an organization founded by McIntyre-Brewer’s son that serves 8,000 veterans in five different states;
- Advocated for legislation that addresses the key concerns of Soldier’s List; and
- Shared its knowledge with organizations across the country seeking to educate the community about resources available to service members.
Advocating for Special-Needs Children
Part and parcel to the work she does with Soldier's List, McIntyre-Brewer advocates for children with special needs, particularly orphans. “My work focuses on getting children with the most complicated diagnoses homes filled with love, compassion (and) access to proper medical care,” she says. This work involves children not only from the United States—80 percent of whom are from military families—but also those from countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan, Romania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Haiti.
Motivated to Serve
McIntyre-Brewer’s father is a retired Air Force officer, and her husband, Steven G. Brewer, is a captain in the U.S. Army. She says her life in a military family “fills me with a sense of responsibility to give back to the United States' unique all-volunteer force.”
Regardless of the popularity of a given military action, “they are still willing to lay down their lives for this country and its principles,” McIntyre-Brewer says. “I feel it is my responsibility to care for their families while they are gone, so they can concentrate on their missions knowing that their families have the support they need.”
Of the medal, McIntyre-Brewer says, “I don't really do my work thinking of accolades or honors. I do my work because I've seen what happens when no one is there to advocate for a … family.” While she is, of course, flattered by the award, McIntyre-Brewer says the gratitude and well-being of those she serves is reward enough.
An Unrivaled SU Education
She extends the honor to the Susquehanna community as well. “I received an unrivaled education at Susquehanna University,” she says. “The caliber of studies, the depth of analysis, the opportunities for expansion—they were all available to me. I've attended other universities and never felt the closeness that I felt, and continue to feel, for Susquehanna. I can confidently say that I've sparred debates with Harvard, Yale and Oxford graduates and held my own. When they ask about my alma mater, their blank expressions, indicating they'd never heard of Susquehanna University, gave way to genuine looks of interest about this hidden gem of a university.”
In addition to the Presidential Citizens Medal, McIntyre-Brewer is the recipient of a 2011 Face of Strength award from the Pentagon, honoring individuals affiliated with the military who “not only survive, but thrive.” In 2008, she received the Military Spouse of the Year award and Susquehanna University’s Young Alumni Award.