American Legion Honors Troops for Volunteerism
American Legion News Release
MILWAUKEE, Aug. 31, 2010 Representatives from the five armed services were honored here today by the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ organization.
Left to right: Army Sgt. Chelsey D. Billing, American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill, Navy Petty Officer Third Class Thomas M. Lothridge, Marine Corps Sgt. Avery Washington II, Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class David L. Downham, Air Force Staff Sgt. Edward L. Perez, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and actor/comedian Ben Stein pose for a photo at the American Legion’s National Convention in Milwaukee, Aug. 31, 2010. The servicemembers are recipients of the Legion’s Spirit of Service Award for their off-duty volunteerism. Courtesy photo by Tom Strattman
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The American Legion presented Spirit of Service awards to Army Sgt. Chelsey D. Billing, Fort Belvoir, Va.; Navy Petty Officer Third Class Thomas M. Lothridge, USS Maryland, Kings Bay, Ga.; Marine Corps Sgt. Avery Washington II, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; Air Force Staff Sgt. Edward L. Perez, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; and Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class David L. Downham, Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., during the organization’s 92nd National Convention, held here August 31 through September 2.
The servicemembers received the award for their volunteer service in their local communities. This is the eleventh annual presentation of the award, which features a shaped, etched glass form mounted on a marble base, as well as a one-year membership in the American Legion.
National Commander Clarence E. Hill, accompanied by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and actor and comedian Ben Stein, presented the awards to the servicemembers.
“As an organization of wartime veterans, we understand and embrace the concept of service to community, state and nation,” Hill said. “These outstanding military members represent the true spirit of service – a steadfast commitment to serve their country and their fellow Americans.”
To receive this recognition, Hill said, the individual must be an outstanding military professional – and be actively involved in volunteer projects in his or her community during off-duty hours.
“We know about service to others. We also know that those in uniform today – from all branches of military service – active duty, reserves and National Guard members – often go out of their way to make a difference in the lives of so many others in the communities in which they live,” Hill said. “Today, The American Legion honors these outstanding Americans who reflect the great spirit of service to others that the founders of our organization considered essential.”
The servicemembers being honored, Hill said, are representative of thousands of their peers who make up the finest fighting force in the world.
“Each of them has demonstrated a strong commitment to serving others, a spirit of service that deserves the highest recognition The American Legion can provide,” he said.
Each of the awardees was selected by their individual services. The American Legion provided for accommodations, meals and travel during the servicemembers’ stay in Milwaukee. They participated in the ceremonial opening of the convention hosted by Stein, and were featured in the Legion’s convention parade as the organization’s newest members.