There are many award ceremonies for those in uniform and/or veterans, but not as many to thank those who support the troops and their families out of uniform - that's where The Ranger newspapers comes in, filling the void with its annual Ranger Hero Awards, scheduled this year for Feb. 9.
Those being recognized next week don't do it for the accolades; however, having the opportunity to thank them is important.
"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 Joint Base Lewis-McChord and in the surrounding communities since 1951. Swarner also publishes the NW Airlifter for local Air Force, as well as JBLM Living, which is mailed to all on-base homes on the joint base. "Each year we have eight of these heroes stand up to be recognized."
That public acknowledgement takes place during a special luncheon at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood organized by Swarner and sponsored by USAA. In addition, the event is co-presented by Olympic Sport and Spine Rehab and Veterans National Lending, and co-sponsored by 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 Vets Financial Network.
This is the second year The Ranger has honored local heroes. In late 2015, the following were honored: Denise Dhane, Eric Kantor, Janis Clark, Mary Dague, CSM Sam Murphy, Kaniya Jenkins, NW Harley-Davidson, and the Capt. Meriwether Lewis Chapter, AUSA.
This year's recipients are:
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, 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.
Why do these local residents do what they do?
"Being a servicemember in the United States military is a challenging, 24/7 occupation which demands that you give selflessly of your time and talents and continually strive to improve yourself and help others," said Amy Luekenga. "In return for these sacrifices, I feel it is important to show support to our troops by honoring and encouraging those that set great examples for so many, and build relationships with those same troops so they know they can count on us, a community, to help them in their times of need."
The Nov. 9 awards ceremony is sold out.