Seven Military Members Receive Presidential Award
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2008 Seven military members received USA Freedom Corps President’s Volunteer Service Awards through the Military Volunteer Recognition Initiative in a ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building here today.
USA Freedom Corps Director Henry Lozano, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation member Mary Jo Myers, and actor Stephen Baldwin presented the awards. Myers is the wife of former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
The award recipients are humble about their volunteer work, Cartwright said. “We get a chance today to honor the recipients,” he said. “If you gave them the microphone, they would probably be the first to tell you they ride on the shoulders of others.”
Even though they come from different services and different military components, they have one thing in common, Cartwright said. “Early in their life, they decided to serve,” he said.
Each of the recipients has brought lessons and character from their military service to their volunteer work, Cartwright said. “It’s not likely to be something that’s short-lived,” he said. “It’s something they’re going to do for their whole life.”
The recipients are the type of people who devote themselves to their communities, the general said, adding they are the type of behind-the-scenes people who end up mayors and policemen.
Award recipients are:
Sgt. Christopher Allais, from 4th Quartermaster Detachment at Fort Richardson, Alaska, was the Army recipient. Allias volunteered for his unit’s family readiness group and for the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers organization as a driver for Airmen/Soldiers against Drunk Driving. Allias was unable to attend the ceremony.
Cpl. Sona Babani, of Headquarters Service Battalion, Manpower Management, Separation and Retirement Branch at Quantico, Va., was the Marine recipient. Babani does most of her volunteer work for the Rappahannock Area Council for Children and Parents, in Fredericksburg, Va., helping children who have abusive parents.
Petty Officer 1st Class Haneefah Collins, assigned to the Naval Computer and Telecommunication Area Master Station, Atlantic, at Norfolk, Va., was the Navy recipient. Collins volunteers as a Drug Education for Youth mentor and team leader.
Maj. Laird Abbott, of Headquarters Air Force A-9 at the Pentagon, was the Air Force recipient. Abbott has for 20 years been a volunteer firefighter for five different fire departments. During the ceremony, he said he earned his inspiration from his father, who was a volunteer firefighter for 40 years.
Chief Warrant Officer Lionel Bryant, Imagery Branch chief at Coast Guard Headquarters here, was the Coast Guard recipient. Bryant is a football and basketball coach for at-risk children, teaching the game, as well as discipline and making positive choices.
Air Force Master Sgt. Tammy Caban, assigned to the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., was the Guard recipient. Caban has volunteered with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors since 2004, providing grief assistance to families who have lost a loved one serving the military. She also volunteers to help patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rene Rubiella, from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., was the reserve recipient. Rubiella is active in a religious program, Habitat for Humanity, and his local soup kitchen.
During the ceremony, Myers read a summary of each of the award recipients’ work. She thanked all of them and gave them a hug afterward. But when it came to Rubiella, Myers had to take a moment to compose herself.
Rubiella lost his only daughter in 2005 in a car accident and has since created a program to teach teenagers about the dangers of driving while distracted. While reading Rubiella’s citation, Myers had to pause when reading about his daughter. Rubiella reached out to touch Myers’ arm, which helped her continue on.
President George W. Bush created USA Freedom Corps to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice and generosity that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In January 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation was established as an initiative of USA Freedom Corps.
Administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the council strives to promote and recognize outstanding volunteer service and raise awareness of the many ways in which Americans can help meet the vital needs of individuals within their communities and around the world.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs office.)