American Legion Honors Five Service Members for Volunteer Service
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2002 -- Five enlisted members, one from each military service, were honored Au, Aug. 29, 2002 Five enlisted members, one from each military service, were honored Aug. 27 for outstanding community volunteer services during the American Legion's 84th national convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Recipients of the 2002 Spirit of Service Awards were Sgt. Charles A. Cloud of U.S. Marine Forces Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.; Tech. Sgt. Christopher Culbreth of Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Petty Officer 2nd class Jesse James Givens of Naval Station Ingleside, Texas; Spc. Eric D. Hall of Fort McPherson, Ga.; and Petty Officer Francine Sak of the Coast Guard recruiting office in Panama City, Fla.
This is the third year the American Legion has expressed its appreciation for the volunteer services performed by active duty service members. The awards were presented by Legion national commander Richard J. Santos and Army Lt. Gen. Bryan D. Brown, commander of the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"To win such honors for outstanding community service and leadership from a prestigious organization like the American Legion certainly gets my attention," Brown told the awardees.
"Leadership is key to special operations and to our communities," he said. "When I speak to my soldiers, I let them know what I expect of a leader -- leaders lead. They make things happen. They're team players with the right attitude and vision."
Cloud, 31, was recognized for a number of volunteer activities including service as a mentor, instructor, executive officer and commanding officer of Young Marine units in the Norfolk area. The Young Marines are youngsters between ages 8 and 17 and fall under the commandant of the Marine Corps drug reduction demand program.
"We teach them basic military knowledge, common courtesies, take them on field trips and to the rifle range to give them a taste of what Marines go through in their day-to-day work as a Marine," Cloud said.
Cloud also has worked as a member of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Drug Education for Youth Program. He conducted training on substance abuse prevention, gang awareness, and deglamorization of crime, alcohol and drugs. Cloud also taught classes in conflict resolution, management skills, citizen leadership, fitness improvement and positive peer interaction.
Asked what prompts him to spend so much time volunteering, Cloud said, "I thought what better way to spend my free time than to help America's youth."
Expressing his humbleness and pride in being selected for the award, Culbreth, 31, said, "to be selected by veterans alone is an honor in itself. But to represent the Air Force is unbelievable." He's assigned to the 15th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hickam.
Culbreth was project manager for the 15th Air Base Wing's United Way's "Day of Caring," which involved helping remodel an off-base elementary school. He helped clean and preserve the Douglas MacArthur War Memorial on Waikiki, serves as an honor guard at Hickam and helped clean up Laniakae Beach.
"I've always made an oath to myself to always leave a place in better shape than it was when I arrived there," said Culbreth, who joined the Air Force in 1991. "I enjoy giving back to the community."
Givens, 39, was honored for his service as a volunteer at Ingleside, near Corpus Christi. He handles school quota requests and researches and disseminates information nationwide about courses at Navy schools.
"I did community service with the child protective service and worked with the Head Start program in Rockport, Texas," said Givens, a deacon and youth programs leader at Faith Mission Church of God and Christ in Aransas Pass, Texas.
"I believe in helping people," he said. Givens and his wife, Flishia, 37, have a daughter and also four foster children under the age of 4 years. "All my life I've enjoyed helping people. I get satisfaction when I see someone else smile. It's just my nature.
"My mom and my wife's mom always had children in their homes," said Givens, who joined the Navy in August 1983 to see the world. "So it's something I picked up and enjoy. I've been doing that for about 10 years."
Hall earned his award for countless hours of volunteer service in the Atlanta area. He's assigned to McPherson's Lawrence Joel Army Health and Dental Clinic.
The health care specialist was cited for his work as a CPR and first aid instructor for the American Red Cross and the Georgia Rescue Dog Association and as a disaster action team leader and caseworker in the Armed Forces Emergency Services.
Hall also participated in the Meals on Wheels and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program while stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. He also served as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician.
"I've been working with the American Red Cross for the past 10 years and also volunteering with K-9 search and rescue in assisting federal, state and local law enforcement," said Hall, who is fluent in Spanish and uses the language when helping patients.
Volunteerism is a "family thing" for Hall and his wife,
Hall has worked with the homeless, in soup kitchens and as a volunteer with different fire departments and ambulance services while attending Niagara (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) University. "When I go to people's homes that have had fires or some kind of disaster, my wife usually goes with me. It's a family thing." Rachel Hall, 21, is a veterinary technician and Red Cross volunteer.
Sak was honored for working to increase access to education opportunities and curriculum improvements for pre-school through elementary school-aged children while stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sitka, Alaska. She is now a recruiter.
Sak was cited for her work as a teacher's aide, helping students with reading difficulties. She also worked with her station's drug education for youth program; was a soccer, T-ball and basketball coach; and served as a counselor and mentor for socially and emotionally disadvantaged children.
Sak enlisted in the Army in 1986 and piloted boats at Fort Eustis, Va., before being discharged in 1990. She attended college for a while, but missed military life. She decided to return to active duty with the Coast Guard.
"We wanted to recognize the contributions of young service people today not only because they're outstanding soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, but because they're giving of themselves in communities across the nation," said American Legion spokesman Joe March.
"We wanted to honor them because they reflect that great spirit of service to others, just as the founders of the American Legion considered essential, he continued. "The awardees were selected by their individual services, (but) it's not just about these five outstanding servicemen and women, it's about all of those who serve in uniform today."