Association Honors 18 for Work on Behalf of Military Families
By Claire Lyn Saxon
Special to American Forces Press Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 17, 2000 DoD's deputy secretary and reserve affairs chief were among 18 persons honored Nov. 16 by the National Military Family Association for their contributions to military families' quality of life.
Rudy de Leon, deputy secretary, and Charles Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs, were two of three persons to receive the association's 2000 Support for Military Families Award. Presentations were at the NMFA annual meeting and luncheon at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va.
De Leon was recognized for his work as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness from 1997 until he became deputy earlier this year. The association cited him for "demonstrated strong and consistent concern for military families with a special interest in the issue of education of military children. He is also applauded for his creation of the Defense Medical Oversight Committee to ensure involvement of senior Services leadership on health care issues."
NMFA honored Cragin, who has piloted DoD reserve affairs since 1997, for "identifying and bringing to the forefront, the role of families of the Guard and Reserve. He was instrumental in the development of a National Guard and Reserve Family Readiness Strategic Plan, and in the establishment of the first survey of families of deployed National Guard and Reserve component members."
The third award was presented posthumously to Rep. Herbert H. Bateman of Virginia, who had been chosen shortly before his death Sept. 11. The chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness at the time of his death, Bateman was recognized for his "long-time, influential and key support of military families during his nine-term career as a member of Congress. His work focused on education of military children, the protection of the commissary benefit, and support of morale, welfare and recreation issues."
The association's Very Important Patriots program also honored 15 volunteers worldwide with plaques and cash awards. Winners at three levels are chosen for their contributions in improving the quality of life in their military and neighboring communities. Eligible candidates are active duty, Guard, Reserve and retired members of the seven uniformed services, and their family members and survivors.
Five winners of the Very Important Patriot awards received plaques and $1,000 cash awards at the Nov. 16 luncheon. The recipients are:
o Maine Air National Guard spouse Cindy Whitney of Camp Keyes, Maine. She was cited for developing and implementing Maine's Family Support Program and her service as its volunteer state program coordinator.
o Navy spouse DaLisa Stearns of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was cited for rescuing, restoring, expanding and managing the installation plant nursery, turning it into a base and family resource.
o Air Force Master Sgt. Mark C. Long of Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, was honored for his work with the Texas Special Olympics program as a committee leader, event manager, player-coach and mentor, and for his involvement with other humanitarian projects.
o Army Staff Sgt. Laura R. K. Jernigan of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was honored for her work with base teen support programs, such as her taking part in planning and executing the Warriors Against Drugs program to help teens stay off drugs.
o Army spouse Karen Comish of Schweinfurt, Germany, helped create and support a community welcome center for newly arrived military families. The concept was later adopted at several other locations and is used as a template for all U.S. Army Europe installations, NMFA officials said.
The recipients of the NMFA Award of Honor and $250 are Coast Guard Reserve spouse Victoria Aboagye of Integrated Support Command Portsmouth, Va.; Tech. Sgt. Kimberly R. VanGorder of Keesler AFB, Miss.; retired Master Sgt. Buck Zehringer of Randolph AFB, Texas; Marine Corps spouse Janet E. Hammes of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Valorie J. Whitehill Heafey of RAF Mildenhall, England.
The recipients of the NMFA Award of Merit and $100 are retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Eugene Crabtree of Hampton Roads, Va.; Lt. Col. William R. Ritchie III of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.; Mary Frances Merritt of Kirtland AFB, N.M., spouse of a retired Air Force member; Staff Sgt. Samuel M. Jones of Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; and Air Force spouse Donna DiRoma of Aviano Air Base, Italy.
The National Military Family Association is a nonprofit, predominately volunteer organization with membership from the seven uniformed services, active duty, retired, reserve component and their family members and survivors. For more information about the association, visit the NMFA Web site at www.nmfa.org.
(Claire Lyn Saxon works for the National Military Family Association.)