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Meet the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year

Dec. 23, 2020 | BY Katie Lange, DOD News

Thousands of outstanding military personnel serve all over the world, but only a select few are chosen for the USO Service Member of the Year Awards.

One junior enlisted service member from each branch — E-5 or below — is honored yearly for an act of valor that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Whether they were saving the lives of their comrades or strangers, these men and women proved their commitment to helping others in times of need. In doing so, they embodied the values for which the Armed Forces stand. 

"Their selflessness and bravery — not only during the events they were nominated for but also throughout their everyday lives — epitomize what it means to serve," said Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and member of the USO Board of Governors. "We are grateful for them and for all of our service members who sacrifice so much to protect us."

Each honoree was nominated by their command leadership. 

Here are the recipients of the 2020 USO Service Member of the Year Awards: 

Two service members in masks hold up an award certificate in front of a USO sign.
USO Soldier of Year
Army Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian, of St. Robert, Mo., is the recipient of the 2020 USO Soldier of the Year Award. Ehiarinmwian serves with the 523rd Engineer Support Company based in Hawaii.
Photo By: USO
VIRIN: 201222-O-ZZ999-087

Army Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian

Army Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian, of St. Robert, Missouri, serves with the 523rd Engineer Support Company in Hawaii.

While Ehiarinmwian was driving to Schofield Barracks, the vehicle in front of her flipped several times before landing upside down on a steel property gate. The driver — who turned out to be another soldier from her unit — was almost impaled. Ehiarinmwian immediately stopped her car, rushed to the driver and checked to see if he was conscious. She then pulled him from the smoking vehicle and moved him to safety, staying with him until medical assistance arrived. 

A sailor standing between two men holds a plaque. A USO backdrop is behind them.
USO Sailor of Year
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer holds a plaque presented to her after receiving the 2020 USO Sailor of the Year Award.
Photo By: USO
VIRIN: 201222-O-ZZ999-088
A woman drags a chain behind her as she walks beside a helicopter.
USO Sailor of Year
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Singer, an aviation machinist's mate, removes chocks and chains from an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 72 on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup
VIRIN: 191015-N-MD802-1039

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer, of Williamsburg, Virginia, serves as an aviation machinist’s mate with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 out of Naval Air Station North Island, California.

Singer was traveling over the Coronado Bridge near San Diego when she helped save the life of a suicidal man. She said she noticed the man outside his vehicle. When she stopped and asked if he needed help, he replied he was fine, but Singer said something still didn't seem right. She then noticed the man putting a rope around his neck. As he put a foot on the barrier to jump over the side of the bridge, Singer rushed over and pulled him back. When she asked what he was doing, he calmly said that he was planning to die that day. Singer then noticed a knife by the ledge, so she grabbed it, cut the rope from the man's neck and then kicked the knife under the car so he couldn't reach it. She found a gun in his pocket, too, and removed it while directing others to lock it in the trunk and call 911.

Singer stayed with the man until police arrived, undoubtedly saving his life. 

A Marine holding a plaque poses with two fellow Marines and three women in front of a USO backdrop.
USO Marine of Year
Marine Corps Sgt. Nolan P. McShane holds a plaque presented to him after receiving the 2020 USO Marine of the Year Award.
Photo By: 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Facebook
VIRIN: 201222-O-ZZ999-089
A Marine lies prone while preparing to fire a rifle.
USO Marine of Year
Marine Corps Sgt. Nolan McShane, a light armored reconnaissance Marine with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires an M107 .50-caliber special applications scoped rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Adam Dublinske
VIRIN: 191014-M-QP663-1310

Marine Corps Sgt. Nolan P. McShane

Marine Corps Sgt. Nolan P. McShane, of Milwaukee, serves with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion based at Camp Pendleton, California.

McShane was overseeing a live-fire training exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, with 14 other Marines when one of them was seriously wounded. McShane stayed calm and took control of the chaotic scene. Using his tactical knowledge and leadership skills, he made sure a tourniquet was applied correctly and inspected pressure dressings. His help was critical in stabilizing the injured man before he was airlifted to a local hospital. 

Outside of the incident, McShane is known for his charismatic leadership, unwavering commitment to his comrades and his many contributions to his battalion's operational success. 

A man wearing dress blues looks at the camera.
USO Airman of Year
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer Jr., of Havelock, N.C., earned the 2020 USO Airman of the Year Award. He currently serves with the 728th Air Mobility Squadron stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
Photo By: Air Force
VIRIN: 201222-F-ZZ999-090

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer Jr.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer Jr., of Havelock, North Carolina, serves with the 728th Air Mobility Squadron stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. At the time of his heroics, he was stationed with the 612th Air Base Squadron at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.  

Archer displayed quick thinking and exemplary leadership when, on a rainy day, he noticed a vehicle had skidded off a roadway and overturned near the town of Comayagua. Undeterred by the terrain, Archer quickly jumped into action and slid down a 50-foot embankment to help. He found an overturned van with nine local Hondurans trapped in it. 

Despite the language barrier, he worked to pull all nine passengers free and had others call for help. When paramedics arrived, he gave them his injury assessment and even put an improvised splint on one victim's broken arm. He then helped move the victims up the hill and out of the rain. Everyone survived thanks to Archer's actions and quick thinking. 

An airman stands in front of a Connecticut Air National Guard flag.
USO Guardsman of Year
Air Force Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman, with the Connecticut Air National Guard, received the 2020 USO National Guardsman of the Year Award.
Photo By: National Guard
VIRIN: 201205-G-DY403-020
Four men in masks stand in front of a Connecticut Air National Guard flag. The middle two hold an award certificate.
USO Guardsman of Year
Air Force Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman, with the Connecticut Air National Guard, holds a certificate honoring him with the 2020 USO National Guardsman of the Year Award. Alongside him are three superior officers (from left to right): Brig. Gen. Gerald McDonald, Maj. Gen. Francis Evon and Chief Master Sgt. John Gasiorek.
Photo By: National Guard
VIRIN: 201205-G-DY403-007

Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman, Connecticut Air National Guard

Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman, of Windsor, Connecticut, serves with the Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Maintenance Squadron.

Rahman showed great bravery during an off-base car crash outside a restaurant near Hartford, Connecticut. According to an off-duty police officer who witnessed the incident, as he was eating lunch, he heard the restaurant's owner yell for someone to call 911. The officer said before he could even get up, he saw Rahman run for the door.

The officer followed Rahman, and they both saw a car flipping sideways down the street before it landed on its roof. The driver started yelling for help, so Rahman ran forward, dove to the ground and pushed the airbag out of the way so he could pull out the driver. He stayed until medics arrived, helping to keep the victim calm and giving first aid. Thanks to Rahman, the driver made it out quickly and safely, which may have saved the driver's life. 

A man in service uniform smiles at the camera.
USO CG of Year
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, earned the 2020 USO Coast Guardsman of the Year Award.
Photo By: Coast Guard
VIRIN: 201222-G-ZZ999-075

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, is a marine science technician serving with Sector New York.

Fleming was in the middle of on-water booming operations off the coast of Georgia when he learned of a capsized recreational fishing vessel in the area. He adjusted course and quickly responded to the scene, where he pulled two men from the water. Using CPR, he resuscitated one of the men. He then wrapped the other fisherman who was exhibiting signs of hypothermia in his own jacket to retain body heat until they made it to land. 

During the height of COVID-19, Fleming also led efforts to establish protocols for a remote facility inspection program, safeguarding personnel from exposure to the virus and making sure the 200 facilities within their area of responsibility remained compliant. 

To all of this year's recipients — thank you for your hard work and commitment!