Armed Services YMCA Honors Two Sailors, Spouses for Helping Others
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 16, 2003 Two sailors and their spouses were honored recently during the 16th annual Armed Services YMCA recognition luncheon on Capitol Hill for outstanding contributions to programs benefiting young enlisted men and women and military families.
This year's Volunteer of the Year awards recipients were Chief Petty Officer Dennis Fitzgerald and his wife, Amy, and Petty Officer 1st Class Charles E. Brett Jr. and his wife, Laura. The awardees represented volunteer families across the country.
The annual luncheon salutes volunteers who donate hundreds of hours of their time supporting ASYMCA programs across the country. It also salutes the best programs run by ASYMCA branches and affiliates.
This year's keynote speaker was Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, who commended the young men and women of the armed forces. He also praised people who volunteer in support of Armed Services YMCA programs.
Clark told the audience about introducing young U.S. sailors to the head of naval operations in a small country, whose navy the U.S. was helping to build. He said he introduced that official a 22-year-old sailor and others who were responsible for the expensive, sophisticated weapons systems aboard ship.
He said that country's senior naval officer found it hard to believe that such young people could be responsible for such expensive, sophisticated equipment.
"In his country, that person would be at least 45 years old," Clark noted. "In the United States of America, we expect a lot from our young people."
Clark then turned his attention to today's U.S. Navy, telling the gathering that the number of people wanting to get into his sea service is backed up so far that he can't count them.
"This year, we have more people coming into the Navy than in any year since the origination of the all-volunteer force," the admiral noted. "My retention this year, for the third year in a row, is higher than it has ever been in the history of this institution called the United States Navy."
The program's master of ceremonies, retired Army Maj. Gen. Donald Infante, chairman of the ASYMCA board of directors, said the Fitzgeralds have been involved with the ASYMCA since they moved to Virginia Beach, Va., in 1996. Their daughters, Brittany, 5, Breanna, 3, and Bridget, 2 months, have been attending the "Y" since birth.
"The Fitzgeralds are at the Y almost every day participating in the children's activities, while mom enjoys the adult programs," Infante said. "Dennis and Amy have assisted with many special events that the Y hosts, such as Thanksgiving meals for singles and the Easter egg hunt for children."
Dennis is an electronics technician at the Navy's Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity in Norfolk, Va. Amy is a former teacher at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, N.C.
Infante pointed out that the Bretts are relatively new to the ASYMCA, but since getting involved in December 2002, they've participated almost daily in "Y" functions. Their daughter, Emma, 2, has been actively participating in the Kids Plus program for a year.
"The Bretts have helped with such activities as Spouses Night Out, Mom-to-Mom Program, community outreach programs and video messaging," Infante noted.
A pharmacy technician, Charles is stationed at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, N.C. Laura is a former office assistant in Santee, Calif.
Laura's moment of fame came last March when she met President Bush at Camp Lejeune. Noting that Laura represented the best of America, Bush said, "She represents hundreds, thousands of people who volunteer to make somebody's life better."
The top Raytheon program achievement award was presented to Andrea Alm, ASYMCA's program director at Fort Campbell, Ky., in recognition of that branch's outstanding Co-op Nursery program. The Raytheon awards started in 1964 as an incentive for ASYMCA branches to develop creative and innovation program for military personnel. A total of 12 branches were recognized for having outstanding programs.
The Co-op Nursery program supports service members and their families with an affordable child-care option, according to retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles E. Franklin, Raytheon's president of Integrated Defense Systems.
Franklin said the 2003 Raytheon Awards are presented to ASYMCA branches that have developed superior programs related to children, families, single service members, hospital/airport support and special events during the prior year. The best conductor of these programs receives the overall award.
The Fort Campbell nursery provides free child care in exchange for volunteer time. "The main difference between our nursery and conventional daycare is that our teachers are not paid with money," Alm explained. "Instead, they're well- trained volunteers who are awarded points which can be exchanged for free child care."
Training offered the volunteers includes first aid and CPR, child abuse prevention and recognition; food handlers/sanitation; child growth and development; and medication administration.
"The mothers and other volunteers use their free time to better themselves, such as attending college classes or working part time," Alm said. "The Co-op gives these moms training and experience which could help them obtain employment. It gives them a place to go during the day and a sense of worth. But most importantly, it gives them a place where they're needed and welcomed - a place where they belong."
During the program, Connie Clark, wife of the chief of naval operations, helped Raytheon artist Jim Ryan unveil a drawing he made for ASYMCA.
Ryan said ASYMCA officials didn't ask him to produce the drawing, "but when word came that they were looking for something for a poster, I had the right idea ready to go."
The drawing depicts a member of the 94th U.S. Army Reserve Command, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., with his two children. "He was being deployed and was just saying goodbye to his kids," Ryan explained.
The painting was used as a poster and placed on the front of the recognition luncheon program.
More than 20 Armed Services YMCA branches are located in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The branches feature programs for enlisted service members and their families, such as after-school youth care, daily child care, hospital assistance, transportation, adult classes, aerobics and English-as-a- second-language classes.