Eight people making a difference in the lives of local military were recognized last Thursday during a luncheon held at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood. Civilians, military spouses, retirees, and more were honored for the work they do in the community.
"There are many civilians, veterans, men and women in uniform, children and businesses who do great things for our local military," said Ken Swarner publisher of The Ranger newspaper which has published at JBLM and in the surrounding communities since 1951. The Ranger holds the annual ceremony along with community partners. "Each year we have eight of these heroes stand up to be recognized."
That public acknowledgement is sponsored by USAA, and co-presented by Olympic Sport and Spine Rehab and Veterans National Lending. Other sponsors included Bright Now Dental, Caspian Orthodontics, Edward Jones - Maggie Connors, First Command, Mountain View Funeral Home, NW Harley Davidson, Olympia Food Co-op, Pacific Medical-US Family Health, Pierce College, Procura Mortgage, SIM Flight School, Staff Pro, The Ram, and the Olympia/Thurston Visitor's Bureau.
America's Credit Union: Serving local military for decades, ACU continues to donate time and money to various military programs including tens of thousands of dollars raised during the credit union's November golf tournament which helps support scholarships and Santa's Castle on base to name just two.
Harborstone Credit Union: Led by Carlene Joseph, Harborstone is a major contributor to the Pierce Military Business Alliance which supports morale programs across JBLM, as well as supports both AUSA and AFA and all of the work done throughout the community to support individual units.
Mary Findlay: Mary is a long-time volunteer supporting the local troops and for several years has chaired the Suits for Soldiers program which gives gently-used business suits to soldiers leaving the service for job interviews.
Michael Forbes: Michael is this year's child of a military family awardee. Michael Forbes, 17, is a senior at Steilacoom High School and currently the senior patrol Leader in Troop 472 in DuPont, a member of Sons of the American Legion (Post 53), and recently worked as a page at the Capitol for Rep. Dick Muri.
Brittney Hamilton: Brittney has worked for the last 17 years in the Veteran community. She started volunteering at the Seattle VA Medical Center in 1999 while completing her undergraduate degree. She joined Operation Ward 57 in 2007 as a volunteer administrator before stepping up as Executive Director in 2011.
Amy Luekenga: A military spouse for the past 24 years, Amy has donated her time as president to Santa's Castle for the past two years and has also served as a scheduling assistant and elf to this nonprofit organization. She has also supported the troops through unit and community activities and served on the Lewis Community Spouses' Club Board.
Herb Scmeling: Herb is a retired command sergeant major and known widely for his involvement with AUSA and the USO to name just two. In 2010, Herb was named the USO Volunteer of the Year for the world, and he has been inducted into the JBLM Civilian Hall of Fame.
Staff Sgt. Marc Tiemeyer: Marc is this year's servicemember awardee. Marc serves in the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field and donates a large number of hours to both AUSA and AFA. In addition, he has contributed over 15,000 hours building trails in the local community as part of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.
The guest speaker for the event was Ron O'Ferrall with Veterans National Lending and a former Army Ranger who gave a passionate speech about the ingenuity that exists within this year's awardees.