Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: July, 2016 (15) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 15

July 1, 2016 at 11:31am

Veteran with PTSD finds coping skills through 'dot' art

Army veteran Greg Mullen has created animal figures, Southwestern sun faces, vases, as well as a life-sized suit of armor and a coffee table with a “dot” art technique he developed to help him cope with PTSD. Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON - When Army veteran Greg Mullen developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder while stationed in the Middle East during the first Gulf War, his symptoms from nonstop anti-missile blasts were severe enough after a six-month deployment for him to transition out of his 12-year military career.

The disorder would later become commonly known as PTSD, a signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mullen's doctor told him he had a personality disorder and prescribed drug therapy.

But the medication did not help his severe anxiety, panic and migraines, Mullen said.

Mullen, a former material control and accounting specialist from Greensboro, North Carolina, didn't know where to turn for help.

Self-Expression Through Art

With assistance provided by a psychologist, Mullen realized he had an aptitude for art. He found himself doodling on paper one day, making small circles within circles, within more circles. The more he repeated the pattern, Mullen said, the less anxious he became.

Little did Mullen know as he doodled those patterns that his life would dramatically change for the better. Gradually, as he transitioned from pencil and paper to paint, overlaying a series of dots onto objects, he felt the entrapment of PTSD's chains begin to fall away.

"It gives me peace of mind and calms me down," Mullen said of his art.

"It gives him a chance to take a breath, when most people might go into panic," Mullen's husband, Edward, said. "He just immerses himself in it. When you're concentrating on creating dots, you're not thinking about much else."

Objets D' Dot Art

Edward began collecting items made from a variety of materials such as wood, ceramic and metal from thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales for his husband to refinish and decorate with lavishly colorful dot patterns.

With no project too small or too large to try, a collection began, born from what Mullen calls "layered-dot artwork."

Edward said his husband does not plan out or use templates when he creates his close-together dot patterns. "When he (paints) the dots, it just takes him where it takes him," he added.

Mullen has created animal figures, Southwestern sun faces and vases. He also has produced a life-sized suit of armor, and a four-by-four-foot coffee table. While a small item takes him a half a day to fill with about 400 dot patterns, Edward said, Mullen's prized coffee table took three months to complete with at least 50,000 layered dots.

Mullen has donated a mother-and-child figure to a major children's charity and a model biplane to a veteran service organization - both for auctions to raise money for their causes.

Helping Veterans Help Themselves

As his collection of art grew, Mullen began showing his wares at military installations from the east coast to Colorado, where he is able to interact with other veterans and show those who also suffer from PTSD symptoms that an alternative to medicine might exist for them, too. He receives emails from inspired veterans who found coping skills through activities such as yoga, meditation and art.

Seeing Mullen's work helps other veterans challenge themselves, Edward said.

His husband's art displays at military bases "gets him out there in front of other people who need to hear his story from him," Edward said. "There are other veterans who are going through the same thing."

July 8, 2016 at 11:12am

Regional Health Command-Pacific welcomes new commanding general

On June 30, Regional Health Command-Pacific held a change-of-command ceremony at historic Palm Circle on Fort Shafter, Hawaii, to bid farewell to Maj. Gen. Patrick Sargent and to welcome Brig. Gen. Bertram Providence. Photo credit: Emily Yeh

Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) conducted a change-of-command ceremony at historic Palm Circle on Fort Shafter, Hawaii, June 30, 2016, to bid farewell to Maj. Gen. Patrick Sargent, outgoing commanding general, and to welcome incoming commanding general, Brig. Gen. Bertram Providence.

Maj. Gen. Robert Tenhet, deputy surgeon general and deputy commanding general (Support) U.S. Army Medical Command, hosted soldiers, staff, family, friends and distinguished guests who gathered to honor both generals as they assume their new roles.

"Maj. Gen. Sargent commanded Army Medicine's largest, geographically dispersed and most complex regional health command," noted Maj. Gen. Robert Tenhet, deputy surgeon general and deputy commanding general (Support), U.S. Army Medical Command. "His unwavering dedication and commitment to providing the highest quality care to our soldiers and their families in a safe environment are unsurpassed," added Tenhet.

Sargent who assumed command of RHC-P two years ago, will move into his new position as the deputy commanding general (Operations), U.S. Army Medical Command; and chief, U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

"Over the course of my tenure in command at RHC-P, I have watched every organization on this field elicit greatness from their organization as they delivered safe, high-quality care to their beneficiaries and exported medical diplomacy across the pacific region," stated Sargent.

"As high reliability organizations, you have proven that your commitment to access, safety, quality and patient satisfaction are your highest priority, as evidenced by the accolades the Joint Commission and NCQA provided to the Bassett and Brian Allgood Community Hospitals and the United States Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks," added Sargent.

Providence previously relinquished his position as the command surgeon, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to assume the position of commanding general, Regional Health Command-Pacific (Provisional); command surgeon, U.S. Army Pacific; and senior market manager, Hawaii Enhanced Multi-Service Market, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Providence earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from St. John's University in Queens, New York, graduating Magna Cum Laude. A distinguished military graduate, Providence was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He holds a medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, a Masters degree in Business Administration with a focus on health care from the George Washington University School of Business and a Masters degree of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Providence has earned numerous awards and decorations which include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Expert Field Medic Badge, Flight Surgeon Badge and Parachutist Badge.

He is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit and a recipient of the "A" Medical Proficiency designator in orthopedics from the U.S. Army surgeon general.

Providence will build upon the work of previous leaders by ensuring RHC-P's military treatment facilities continue to provide safe, high-quality and accessible world-class medical care to beneficiaries. He will also ensure RHC-P remains a credible partner and key enabler, managing medical diplomacy to the 36 nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

"To soldiers, civilians and family members of the command, the fundamental goal of military health care is to maximize readiness which is different from any other health care system in the United States," noted Providence. "We can only be successful in this effort if we work as a team. It takes a team to succeed; no one can do it alone," added Providence.

"I truly thank you for all you do on a daily basis to help ensure our military and our nation remain ready to fight and win," emphasized Providence.

RHC-P is comprised of medical, dental, veterinary, and public health facilities in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Japan, South Korea and Washington state.

July 8, 2016 at 11:16am

You can roll the sleeves

A soldier demonstrates how the sleeves can be rolled with camo out, no more than three inches above the elbow. Photo credit: Gary Sheftick

Effective immediately, commanders may authorize soldiers to roll up the sleeves on Army combat uniforms, according to a memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, deputy chief of staff, G-1, June 28.

The new policy pertains to the universal camouflage pattern, operational camouflage pattern, and Operation Enduring Freedom camouflage-pattern ACUs.

"We're going sleeves up, camo out," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey.

The sleeves will be rolled above the elbow, right-side out with the camouflage pattern showing. They should be rolled no more than three inches above the elbow - according to the memo - and this method will be used primarily in garrison.

‘DELTA ROLL'

In addition, during field training exercises or operations, upon approval of the commander, sleeves may be opened and cuffed inward above the wrist on the forearm.

"It's often referred to as a Delta roll or SF roll," Dailey said.

This second method of staying cool is specifically for soldiers in a field or deployed environment, he emphasized.

Soldiers have to remember, though, that these authorizations are only good when not precluded by safety, Dailey said. "Like when you're in a combat vehicle, the sleeves have to go down."

NO TIME RESTRICTIONS

There will be no time restrictions on the new policy, Dailey said. "For instance, company commanders in Hawaii can make the decision to go sleeves up any time of year."

The ultimate decision to roll sleeves any time rests with unit commanders, he said, but added that the Army-wide policy has changed due to input from soldiers.

"The overwhelming support from soldiers around the Army was a big factor in coming to this decision," he said.

SOME EARLY ROLLERS

Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, were given permission earlier this month to begin rolling up their sleeves for a 10-day period, when visited by Dailey and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

At the time that permission was given mid-month, the sleeve-rolling was considered an experiment for a possible Army-wide policy, according to a G-1 spokesman.

That spokesman, Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk, said "Feedback from soldiers resulted in us wanting to do a trial over the next ten days to see the feasibility of updating AR 670-1 and incorporating in the future for the force to give commanders flexibility in wear based upon their unit's mission."

FEEDBACK

Soldier feedback on the issue has been populating social media sites for the past two weeks.

For instance, in a June 21 post on the Army Facebook page, the question was asked: "Let your voice be heard!! If you're a #USArmy Soldier, the #15th SMA wants to know what you want: Camo in or Camo out?"

One commented: "Go back to the good ole days! It was an art to roll those sleeves!" She was referring to 2006, before the Battle Dress Uniform was phased out. At the time the camouflage pattern remained on the outside.

Most, but not all of the sentiment appeared to be "camo out." Some didn't agree at all with rolling them up, but that appeared to be a small minority.

That Army Facebook posting generated a lot of interest. Twitter and other social media sites generated similar outpourings of opinions on the change.

July 8, 2016 at 11:24am

Army unconnected

Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning (left), speaks at an AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare-hosted professional development forum breakfast, June 28, 2016 in Arlington, Va. Retired Gen. Carter Ham moderates the discussion. Photo credit: David Vergun

The Army is not doing a good enough job of communicating and connecting with the American people, said Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning, adding "That's not healthy for the country or the Army."

Fanning spoke at an Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare-hosted professional development forum breakfast, June 28.

The lack of connectivity has not happened overnight, he explained. It started decades ago with the creation of the all-volunteer force, "which caused a divide over those who served and those who are protected."

That divide doesn't bode well for future recruiting efforts and getting the resources the Army needs from Capitol Hill, Fanning said.

The Army needs to find ways to reach out - particularly to the new generation - and tell the Army story, he said.

WAYS TO CONNECT

Fanning suggested several gateways for making that connection, social media being one and engaging more with the press and policymakers as others.

Himself a social media user, the secretary said it's a tool that could be used to share with everyone what the Army is doing, and get that told in an accurate and informative manner.

The Army brings a lot to the fight. It is large, for instance, with huge geographical reach, he said. It brings great capability to the fight - to the joint fight. That could be communicated.

When people think about the third offset strategy, they think about sophisticated aircraft and vessels the Air Force and the Navy field. "The Army is undersold and underappreciated with the role technology plays," he said.

For instance, there's 10 times as much computerized code in a tank today than there was in the spacecraft that flew men to the moon, he said. There are robotics, autonomous vehicles, and a lot of other things in the Army that are high-tech and need to be talked about. That, too, could be told.

Another way to connect is through word of mouth, Fanning said. If you walk down the street and see a person in uniform, chances are, they're in the National Guard or Reserve. They're in every community and are a potent source for telling the Army story. They bring unique capabilities to the fight and are integral to the total force.

Asked why youngsters choose joining the Army, Fanning replied that when he visits basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he poses that question to the parents.

They often reply that there's a family connection. Perhaps an uncle or grandfather served, he said. That's how important staying connected is. The Army is literally "America's service."

BIGGEST THREAT TO ARMY

Fanning addressed a number of other concerns during a question-and-answer session.

When asked what he thought was the biggest threat to the Army, Fanning replied "the budget instability and the political environment."

He noted that budget uncertainty "makes it very hard to put together any sort of long-term plan. ... It's the biggest threat to building the most capable Army we can build."

BUDGET REFORM

Regarding budget reform, Fanning noted that's still a big problem after many attempts to tackle it.

Some of what stymies reform is the enormity of the bureaucracy, he said. "Bureaucracies are additive. ... (There's) too much oversight and top-down management. We have to loosen that up because we're not fielding capabilities as fast as we should and we're spending a lot of money in the process."

Asked about his involvement with a new "Rapid Capabilities Office," Fanning explained that its purpose is ferreting out the capabilities the adversaries are acquiring - capabilities that are often a surprise to the U.S. military - and getting new or counter capabilities out to the field as quickly as possible. Two areas of special concern are electronic warfare and cyber.

SOLDIERS AND FAMILIES

Soldiers are being asked to do a lot, Fanning said, referring to multiple deployments. Although they join to do that, it eventually can and does take a toll on the family.

It's the Army's job to reassure soldiers that their families are being taken care of when they deploy, he said.

Family programs are part of that plan and it's a big institution, he said. There are so many programs and "I'm not sure we have the oversight and integration, or that they're as effective as they could be. It should be made as easy as possible for families to reach out and find the help they're looking for.

"We need to find out which programs are working and which are not and which could be improved or done away with so resourcing can be used for other things," he continued.

SUICIDES & SEXUAL ASSAULT

Regarding suicides, Fanning said that's a difficult nut to crack. There's still a stigma out there to seeking help and the numbers don't look good. The suicide rate this year - about 100 - is the same as it was last year.

But Army researchers and behavioral health experts are laser-focused on getting answers, he added.

As to sexual assault, Fanning said "a lot has been done on the response side, but more needs to be done on the prevention side."

Even just one suicide or one sexual assault case in the Army is one too many, he added.

July 8, 2016 at 1:52pm

Breaking: JBLM soldier dies during PT

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. –A soldier assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord died early this morning during unit physical training.  The soldier and his unit were conducting a unit run in a wooded area on JBLM Lewis North at the time of the incident.

Emergency medical staff from Madigan Army Medical Center responded to the scene and administered emergency medical treatment. The soldier was transported by ambulance to MAMC where the soldier was pronounced dead.

The name of the soldier who died is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The incident is under investigation.

All members of the JBLM community extend our condolences and support to family and friends of the soldier who died during unit physical training.

July 12, 2016 at 5:37am

Base identifies soldier who died Friday

Spc. Louis Moua, 26, an enlisted soldier assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord died early Friday during unit physical training.  The soldier and his unit were conducting a unit run in a wooded area on JBLM Lewis North at the time of the incident.

Moua was with the 2nd Infantry Batallion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He had been at JBLM since September 2015.  Prior to his arrival here, he served for eight months in Afghanistan.

Emergency medical staff from Madigan Army Medical Center responded to the scene and administered emergency medical treatment. The soldier was transported by ambulance to MAMC where the soldier was pronounced dead.

The incident is still under investigation.

July 14, 2016 at 9:28am

Soldier takes the gold

Army Sgt. Davey Jones who is also an archer, is pictured with his competition bow, June 15, 2016. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Army Sgt. Davey Jones, an electronic warfare specialist with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, earned a gold medal in the men's discus throw in his disability category during the track and field competition at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 16.

He said he had been looking forward to the competition, because he had thrown the discus and javelin in high school.

Jones said he was excited to make this year's Warrior Games team after not making it last year. He competed at the Valor Games Southeast last year, and he earned gold medals in archery and rowing and a bronze medal in shot put.

"It's great to be rewarded for all of your training," Jones said. "It's also great because I returned to duty, so I moved away from all of my friends. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get to see most of them again, so getting to come here, that's the biggest thing for me - spending time with my friends and getting to spend time with the coaches. The coaches have helped me become a lifelong athlete."

Throughout the week, about 250 wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and United Kingdom armed forces are competing in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball at the Warrior Games.

Injury

Jones said he joined the military to serve his country and because of his grandfather, who left the Army as a lieutenant colonel.

"He was pretty much my hero growing up, and that was a pretty big part of it, but I joined the Marines, even though it's generally an Army family," he said. "I joined the Marines because it was the toughest, and they had better uniforms. I still miss the uniform, but I'm happy to be in the Army now, that's for sure."

Jones served in the Marine Corps for four years and decided he wanted to do something more, so he signed a Special Forces contract with the Army. During training, he repeatedly separated his shoulder and injured his feet, resulting in tendon issues, foot pain and lower leg pain most of the time.

Competing for Others

Jones said adaptive sports have helped him in his recovery, and he's honored to represent the Army team and those who didn't make it back from combat missions. He served in Iraq in 2003.

"I don't take it lightly, and it's a huge honor," he said. "I think about the people who didn't even make it back to the (Warrior Transition Battalion from combat), and I try to hold them in my heart and in my thoughts when I'm competing. I got to come back. I got to stay in the military. That's huge, so I try to earn the life I have."

Jones said he's also honored to compete alongside his fellow wounded, ill and injured from the other service branches and the United Kingdom.

"There're some amazing people here, and it's an honor to represent the people who aren't here. Just to get to stand up here with a lot of these people is huge for me," he said. "They're heroes to me, and that's why I'm still pushing and trying to spread the love for my service and trying to keep going for as long as I can."

July 14, 2016 at 9:31am

JBLM shopper wins

Michael Einer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exchange general manager, and Pat Tinker, McChord store manager, present a $5,000 check to Suhrhim Lee of Spanaway, July 6. Courtesy photo

A military spouse was awarded a $5,000 prize by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service on July 6 at the McChord Exchange.

Michael Einer, Exchange general manager, presented a $5,000 check to Suhrhim Lee, of Spanaway, in the main store.

Lee was selected at random from more than 12,000 Army & Air Force Exchange Service shoppers worldwide who entered to win the Ford Gum Sweepstakes, which offered shoppers a chance to win a $5,000 trip to Chicago.

"When they first left me a voicemail to tell me I'd won, I thought it was a scam because I didn't remember that I entered into a sweepstakes," Lee said. "I didn't call back, and when he called the next day, I finally remembered I'd entered. I was in disbelief."

Since Lee's husband, Army Special Forces member Sgt. 1st Class Seungshik Lee, will be in Fort Benning, Georgia, for training until at least November, Lee opted to take the prize's cash value instead, though it will be earmarked in the family budget for a future vacation.

"Being in the Special Forces, my husband is deployed or off for training quite a bit during the year," she said. "It's always one thing after another. So any time we get to spend together is good."

Einer said the Exchange is proud to give the prize to a military spouse who sacrifices so much in the name of protecting American freedoms.

"Enduring long periods of time away from her spouse, Ms. Lee is living proof that the military spouse is the backbone of the American military family," Einer said. "This prize serves as a small token of our appreciation for Ms. Lee's dedication to not only her family, but her country." 

July 15, 2016 at 10:12am

Nepal from Nepal

Spc. Sajalupadhyaya Nepal, a medical logistics specialist assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center, maintains the flags used by the medical center as part of his work for the command team at Madigan, July 7. Photo credit: Spc. Adeline Witherspoon

His eyes gleamed without any sense of nervousness as Spc. Sajalupadhyaya Nepal stood tall and recited the United States of America's Pledge of Allegiance at his naturalization ceremony at the Seattle Center, June 15.

"As I sang the National Anthem, I couldn't stop smiling," Nepal said. "I just kept thinking I am finally done waiting to become a citizen."

Nepal's journey to become a U.S. citizen started at 18 years old. He came to the U.S. from Biratnagar, Nepal, on a student visa to attend Colorado State University at Pueblo.

His father convinced him to apply to universities in the U.S. and to tackle the challenges of earning an education overseas.

"No one wants to move away from home when things are easy and where you are comfortable with your friends," Nepal admitted. "When I moved to the United States, everything got harder."

The only person Nepal knew when he moved to the U.S. was his older sister, who was also on a student visa attending the Colorado State University at Pueblo. Even though they attended the same school, he was still in a new environment, with new people, half-way around the world from what was comfortable.

"When I moved here I did not even know how to do simple things like cook," Nepal acknowledged. "The United States taught me everything that I know because I moved here when I was so young. I am truly grateful for the experience; it made me grow as a person."

Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Nepal accepted a job in the District of Columbia working as a healthcare contractor. Not surprisingly, he challenged himself again - working by day and completing his Master's Degree in Business Administration from Columbia College at night.

While working in the District, Nepal made friends in the military. As a child he had always wanted to join the Armed Forces, and seeing his friends in uniform motivated him to sign up even more.

"Wanting to join the military became my passion," Nepal eagerly explained. "I liked the idea of the lifestyle, discipline and the comradery."

Nepal was persistent about joining the military and after several years joined the Army as a new recruit.

Immediately after donning the uniform as a newly enlisted soldier, Nepal applied to become a U.S. citizen while attending Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Noncitizen servicemembers are allowed to apply for citizenship while attending basic training; they must demonstrate good moral character, knowledge of the English language, knowledge of U.S. government and history, and take an oath of allegiance to the American Constitution.

After graduation, Nepal arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was assigned as a medical logistics specialist.

With one goal achieved, Nepal furiously focused on the next: taking the naturalization exam and preparing for the face-to-face interview. But his focus wasn't singular - during this time he was nominated for and selected as the driver for the Commander of Madigan Army Medical Center.

"When I passed my citizenship test, I finally relaxed," Nepal explained. "I was so happy but my command team was more excited than I was."

Col. Michael Place, the commander of Madigan, said that Nepal showed superior motivation, determination and performance through the entire process of receiving his citizenship.

"We were very excited for him to receive his citizenship; he is a self-motivator," said Sgt. 1st Class Marisa Richardson, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Madigan command group.

Naturally, Nepal has new goals. Now that he is a citizen he would like to sponsor his mother and father in order for them to become U.S. citizens. Additionally, he hopes to apply to attend Officer Candidate School in order to become an officer within the Medical Service Corps.

"Team Madigan is enormously proud of his hard work, and his decision to become an American citizen," Place said. "We appreciate his on-going contributions to the defense of our great country." 

July 22, 2016 at 2:12pm

4th Annual SOSA given in Washington

American Legion members and senior servicemembers stand for a toast during the 4th annual Service to America and Salute to Armed Forces and Law & Order Banquet in Centralia, July 15. Photo credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco

CENTRALIA - Servicemembers of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard were awarded the 4th Annual American Legion Department of Washington Spirit of Service Award (SOSA) in Centralia, July 15.

To qualify for the SOSA, an individual must be an outstanding military professional and be actively involved in volunteer projects within their community during off-duty hours. It is awarded to enlisted personnel of rank E-6 and below.

Each of the respective services nominated their own servicemember to be awarded the SOSA. The American Legion has no involvement in the choosing of the recipient.

This year's SOSA award recipients are Army Staff Sgt. Sheldon Boyajean, an Illinois native, assigned as Operations Sergeant for Headquarters Detachment 504th Military Police Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; Marine Corps Sgt. Susana Montano, a Texas native, assigned as the Battalion Cyber Chief; Yeoman 1st Class Brenda Belcher, a Washington native, assigned to AFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany; Air Force Tech Sgt. Danita Welch, a Wisconsin native, assigned as a Health Services manager for the 62nd Medical Squadron at JBLM; and Coast Guard Yeoman 1st Class Jaimee Baker, a New York native, assigned to the Personnel Support Division at Coast Guard Base Seattle.

Each servicemember was escorted down the aisle with their services' flag, while the departments' legion band performed that servicemember's anthem or hymn.

"It feels overwhelming to see the servicemembers here," said retired Coast Guard Master Chief Jake Cabuag, the SOSA Commission Chairman. "When I see the recipients grouped together and talking, it feels good."

"It is an honor getting recognized for my service and for the stuff I do for the community," said Monano. "It is a really great honor to be recognized by the American Legion and to be presented with this award in front of so many people. I would just like to thank everybody for it."

United States Africa Command flew Belcher to Centralia from Germany to be able to participate in the ceremony.

"It means a lot," said Belcher. "I am very moved by the fact that my command put me in for this award. I had no idea that they put me in for this award. Being deployed to Germany, I was just busy taking care of business, and when I found out that I won the award I was very moved. I know there are so many people out there that deserve this award and it is humbling to me to be able to receive it."

"It is basically the epitome of getting to follow my passion," said Baker. "Thank you, American Legion."

"I think it is inspiring that the American Legion hasn't forgotten to recognize our men and women in the service for the things that they do above and beyond their traditional career," said Cmdr. Annette Washburn, the executive officer of Navy Reserve U.S. Pacific Command Det. 501. "And to see the awardees like YN1 Belcher, it is inspiring to me to see that she is willing to go above and beyond to help people that she doesn't even know. I feel like sometimes that is lost in our world. So it is a good reminder to myself, and to the rest of the world, that we need to take care of each other and volunteer to help one another out, and I couldn't be more proud."

According to Cabuag, the American Legion is the nation's largest organization of wartime veterans with a current membership of 2.3 million wartime veterans nationwide, and over 30,000 in Washington. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

For more information, please see the American Legion website: www.walegion.org.

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