America Supports You: Military Volunteers Adorn Cereal Box
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2006 Five recipients of the 2005 Very Important Patriot Award from the military community will be "appearing" on commissary cereal shelves worldwide this summer.
The National Military Family Association's 2005 Very Important Patriot Award winners are featured on special edition boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. (Left to right) Michele Canchola, Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Caraway, Marine Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook, Chris Zaehringer, and Robert Davison are the 2005 honorees. The boxes, available only in commissaries worldwide, began shipping in May and will be available throughout the summer or as long as supplies last. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Special-edition boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, bearing the award winners' likenesses, began shipping in May and will be available through the summer or while supplies last, Michelle Joyner, spokeswoman for the National Military Family Association, said. They will be available only in military commissaries.
The association is a member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which showcases Americans' efforts to support servicemembers and their families, and runs the award program.
The Very Important Patriot Award recognizes volunteers whose service contributes to improving the quality of life in their military or neighboring communities, according to the NFMA's Web site. The 2005 winners included the spouses of an Army National Guardsman and an Air Force member, two active duty Marines and the son of a retired Air Force officer, Joyner said.
"It was about six years ago that Kellogg's decided to put the Very Important Patriot winners on a special-edition cover of the cereal box," she said. "We think this special edition ... featuring military volunteers is an excellent way for Kellogg's to show their support for the military community."
Michele Canchola, a South Carolina Army National Guard spouse, helped organize volunteers to create a consolidated family readiness group for the 263rd Army Air Missile and Defense Command's six units. Because of the strength of the 263rd's readiness group, Canchola and the Family Readiness Group leaders created a training model for other brigades statewide that may not yet have had readiness groups to follow.
"A family readiness group is real critical to a unit as far as accomplishing its mission," she said. "It gives soldiers great peace of mind when they're away, that their families are being taken care of."
For Canchola's efforts, soldiers from her husband's brigade nominated her for the Very Important Patriot Award, she said.
"(I was) absolutely both honored and humbled," she said about winning the VIP Award. "I'm not the only one in the trenches doing what I'm doing, and there's many people out there doing great things."
Robert Davison, an Air Force spouse, was an officer of the 375th Medical Group Booster group, and the "key spouse" for the 375th Medical Support Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., when he received his award. Through his own nonprofit organization, the Airman's Food Pantry, he also provided backpacks filled with toiletries, blankets and clothes for families and servicemembers passing through the base, a major staging site for the Air Force's worldwide aeromedical evacuation system.
Davison's wife has since changed permanent duty stations, and the family relocated to Mississippi.
Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Caraway, volunteered with the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Horse Back Riding Program. There, he assisted children and adults with disabilities to learn the sport of horseback riding. He also taught skating and served as a guard at Wakefield Skate Park, where customers can practices their skateboarding, in-line skating and BMX bike skills.
Caraway was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, when he received the award. He has since relocated to Hawaii.
Marine Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook has volunteered as long as he's served in the Corps. While stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, he worked with local orphanages, the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program, the Cub and Boy Scouts, as well as the Marine Corps Community Services. His volunteerism continued upon his return to the United States, where he worked to make other Marines aware of volunteer opportunities with stories published in his base newspaper, the Henderson Hall News.
Firstbrook is assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, Division of Public Affairs, Marine Corps News, and is an editor for "Marines Magazine."
Chris Zaehringer, the son of a retired Air Force officer, was nominated for the VIP Award for his work with the Mountain Home Air Force Base Child and Youth Services Program in Idaho. He has held leadership positions in the Training Responsible Adolescents in Leadership program, an outdoor adventure-based program for pre-teens and teens. He also has served as the vice president of Military Brats Rejecting Alcohol/Tobacco Tolerance Zero.
Each recipient received $1,000 prizes and a trip for two to Washington for the awards presentation held in November. Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald Murray delivered the keynote address at the awards dinner.
A panel of military and NMFA volunteers also presented five volunteers with the Award of Honor, which carries a $500 prize. Another five chosen as Award of Merit recipients received $250.
Sponsors for the three NMFA awards include Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, Tysons, Clorox and H.J. Heinz, all military commissary vendors.
"Due to the challenges of the current pace of military operations, volunteers are playing an increasing role in providing support and stability in their communities," Tanna Schmidli, NMFA board chairwoman, said. "The role of active volunteers has become a critical element in mission readiness."
Nominations for the 2006 VIP Awards can be made through the National Military Family Association Web site through June 15.