HONOLULU - A Soldier assigned to U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was honored for his contribution to community service by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii in a ceremony in downtown Waikiki, May 19.

Sgt. Gregory Bowling, an information systems administer who has served in the military for 13 years, has been a foster parent for the last nine months working with Hawaii's Child Welfare Services (CWS).

"A lot of kids don't have the opportunity to stay with family when times are tough; I wanted to do what I could to help them," said Bowling.

Bowling and six other service members from Hawaii-based commands were honored at the 25th annual Chamber's Military Recognition Luncheon. The ceremony also paid tribute to military members returning home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nearly 1000 businesses and Hawaii military leaders gathered to formally recognize the contributions and sacrifices men and women in uniform make not only to Hawaii, but nationwide.

"These men and women in uniform here today represent the finest people this nation has to offer. They are not the exception; they are the rule," said Lt. Gen. Herbert Hawk, commander, 13th Air Force during his keynote speech to attendees.

Bowling, a native of San Antonio, is in charge of PACOM's infrastructure networks, totaling an estimated three million dollars. He provides customer support to more than 1,600 end users throughout the Asia-Pacific region and manages state-of-the-art computer information systems. Previously, he served nine years in the Navy as a missile technician and as an electrician technician.

Before becoming licensed as foster parents, the family underwent a series of procedures to demonstrate they were equipped to take on the responsibility. CWS conducted a rigorous criminal and financial background check, collected numerous letters of reference, and required the Bowlings to attend an intensive training class.

"The training gives the foster parents information on how to work with the department, so they can better understand how to take care of the children," explained CWS Foster Licensing Social Worker Erin Yamada.

"The Bowling family has really put their heart and soul into this. Anything we have asked them to do, they have been willing to help. We are so happy to have them working with us."

They are now taking care of a second pair of siblings, and both describe fostering children as immensely rewarding.

"Being able to see how the kids have grown and changed in the months we have been with them has been a great aspect of this experience. We are happy to do what we could to help these children," said Bowling's wife, Regina.

Along with the children the Bowling's have mentored, they have three kids ranging in ages five to 13 years. Both parents report that fostering has had a positive effect on them, as they too learn the value of service to others and what it means to provide a stable environment to a child who may have never experienced it.

Bowling and his wife attend a weekly foster ministry by church Calvary Chapel, helping the family to connect with others who have foster children. The foster support network also allows them to share best practices and plan family outings together.

"This experience has really meant so much to us, and we are grateful to have been able to share our lives with these children," said Bowling.