By Julia LeDouxMay 5, 2016
Four Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall community members and a team of staffers from the Cody Child Development Center were honored as children's heroes during the Blue Tie Affair held at Spates Community Club on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base April 27.
The Department of Defense recognized April as both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Month of the Military Child. Sara McCauley, acting Family Advocacy Program Manager, said nominations for the children's hero award were sought from the community.
This year's honorees included Army Pfc. Jeremi A. Casella, an administrations actions coordinator for Delta Company, 1st Battalion 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). In nominating Casella for the recognition, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Callaghan-McCann noted that Casella has volunteered countless hours since May of 2014 at Phelps High School and Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Washington, D.C.: served as a board member for the Urban Debate League; and has volunteered at several homeless shelters in the National Capital Region.
"Pfc. Casella has always dreamt of working with youth in the inner city schools," Callaghan-McCann said. "He loves being able to make a difference in the community."
Army Staff Sgt. Ernest C. Henderson, who is assigned to the Office of the Administrative Assistant, Army Headquarters Service, Army Multimedia and Visual Information Directorate, was nominated by Stephen Bates. Henderson coaches a youth basketball team made of 8 and 9 year old boys, many of whom come from single parent homes.
"Staff Sgt. Henderson is a surrogate parent, teaching respect in how to carry yourself and behave in team play and in how you carry yourself and behave in front of others," Bates said. "He feels it is his duty to see these kids grow and develop skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives."
Marine Cpl. Fernando Maldonado, Headquarters and Service Company, Marine Barracks Washington, was nominated by Kelly Layne, volunteer program manager for Marine Corps Community Services Henderson Hall.
"Cpl. Maldonado has made a significant impact on the health and well-being of so many children in the National Capital Region through many different venues," Layne said.
According to Layne, Maldonado has volunteered numerous hours at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C., and is a steady source of volunteer support for the Marine Corps Family Team Building program.
Air Force Senior Airman Alejandro Munera-Obando of the 79th Medical Wing, 779th Medical Group, was nominated by his wife, Connie.
Connie honored her husband for the time he spends as a volunteer youth soccer coach.
"With practice twice a week and games once or twice a week, he has never been in a hurry to leave the field, and oftentimes I find myself pulling him off the field," she said. "Alejandro's 'children' are the topic of our day-to-day life for the entire season and he takes great pride in each player's growth and confidence built."
Army spouse Tara Neumann nominated a group of Cody staffers who she dubbed "Team Neumann" for the care they provided her 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Charles, who has oral hypersensitivities to the taste and textures of food which caused him to gag, vomit and not gain any weight. Therapy did not work, and when Charles started attending Cody, Tara said she and her husband were "lost, scared and didn't know what to do for our son."
After meeting with Cody CDC Director Sunny Smith, who promised the Neumanns that their son would be placed with the right people to help him, Tara said their lives changed for the better.
"We truly would be lost without Team Neumann," said Tara, who noted that Charles has gained weight and that she and her husband now have the "ability to have a semi-normal life" thanks to them.
Editor's note: Look for a full story on Team Neumann in a future edition of the Pentagram.
Pentagram Staff Writer Julia LeDoux can be reached at email@example.com.