Fort Drum Soldiers shine at USO Gala
Sgt. Richard Schuh of Fort Drum receives the USO Volunteer of the Year Award from Daniel E. Walker, left, chief talent officer for JC Penny department stores, and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and USO Board of Governors chairman.

In July 2011, while driving home to Missouri from Fort Drum during block leave, Perkins, then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, came upon the scene of an accident involving a Canadian tour bus and a tractor-trailer.

With no regard for his personal safety, Perkins boarded the bus and evacuated more than 20 passengers. By this time, the bus was fully engulfed in flames and filled with smoke, yet Perkins re-entered the bus several times to ensure all of the passengers had made it to safety.

He also transported a family to two hospitals more than two hours apart in search of a relative, who had been injured during the accident. He then stayed with them until other relatives arrived from Canada.

Perkins was awarded the Soldier's Medal, the highest honor a Soldier can receive for an act of valor in a noncombat situation, during a ceremony on Fort Drum in December 2011. And on Friday, short of a year later, he took the stage at the Washington Hilton at the USO's annual gala to accept the USO Soldier of the Year Award presented by Lt. Gen. William Troy, director of the Army Staff.

The unassuming noncommissioned officer maintains the same message now as he did throughout the media storm following his heroic acts: that he was merely doing what anyone else would have done in the same situation.

However, being recognized by the USO is a big deal to him.

"It's pretty amazing really," Perkins said when asked how it felt to be honored, "especially being able to be recognized by such a great organization."

For Schuh, it all started with a smoothie. Schuh, assigned to B Battery, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was on patrol in Afghanistan last year when he suffered injuries from small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. He was transported to Kandahar Airfield for treatment and recovery, and it was there that he would make his mark on the USO.

While on KAF, Schuh, along with other wounded warriors, were served smoothies by USO volunteers. Schuh was so impressed by the actions of the volunteers that he visited USO Kandahar the following day to volunteer. During his recovery, Schuh volunteered more than 200 hours at the USO, leading and participating in several events at the center.

Schuh received an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal from Maj. Mark A Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, during a ceremony held Sept. 7 at division headquarters. Before being named Volunteer of the Year, Schuh was selected as the USO's Volunteer of the Quarter and then Regional Volunteer for the Southwest Asia Region.

On Friday, Schuh accepted the USO Volunteer of the Year Award presented by Daniel E. Walker, chief talent officer for JC Penny department stores, and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and USO Board of Governors chairman.

Schuh also described his experience as "amazing," and he noted that Sloan Gibson, USO president and CEO, personally called to give him the news.

Before the evening's festivities, Schuh and his wife Elizabeth and Perkins and his wife Jessica joined other service member honorees and their guests for breakfast at the residence of Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group also enjoyed a second day of private tours, which included Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.

The previous day, the Soldiers, their spouses and fellow honorees visited the White House and the Capitol building and had lunch at Old Ebbit Grill. The USO chairman's reception followed at the National Archives.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a guest speaker at the gala on Friday, said we must do our best to honor our pledge to the men and women in uniform.

"They are the military's greatest strength," said Panetta, before adding that the USO is the heart and soul of caring for them.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also addressed the crowd. He quoted baseball player Yogi Berra during his remarks saying "little things are big," referring to the services of the USO.

"A smile and a hug are not really big things when you confront them," said Dempsey, "but they are big to the service member."

Guests of the gala included recording artist Jordin Sparks, who provided entertainment. Sparks participated in her first overseas USO tour in 2011, visiting more than 3,100 service members in seven locations. Members of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders also attended and assisted with the awards presentation. The group will begin its 75th overseas USO tour in December.

Fellow honorees for the evening were as follows: Marine of the Year, Sgt. Clifford M. Wooldridge; Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer Gregory F. Gaylor; Airman of the Year, Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Beversdorf; Coast Guardsman of the Year, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas A. Beane; and National Guardsman of the Year, Senior Airman Evan J. Stevens.

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Deborah received the Spirit of the USO Award.

Page last updated Thu August 29th, 2013 at 11:27