By Bill Mossman, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsMay 24, 2010
WAIKIKI, Hawaii - Hawaii's business leaders joined up with state government officials and lawmakers in saluting seven enlisted service members for their contributions in community service during the annual Military Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, here, May 18.
Before some 800 guests seated inside the hotel's Coral Ballroom, this year's seven honorees, led by Sgt. Tony Wood, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Fort Shafter, were praised for their selfless service to their country and communities, and their unwavering devotion to duty.
As a reward for the exceptional service rendered, each of the awardees received a complimentary trip for two to the Big Island, and a two-night stay at Kilauea Military Camp.
"They truly demonstrate the aloha spirit wherever and whenever there's a need," said Ray Ono, vice chairman and chief banking officer of First Hawaiian Bank, who helped introduce this year's award winners. "We can count on them to be there for us."
The day's other honorees - all of whom were first nominated by their units before being selected by members of an installation selection board, composed of senior and noncommissioned officers - were:
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Gregory Bowling, Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith;
Aca,!Ac Cpl. Stefan Gilwa, Installation Personnel Administration Center, Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe;
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Tony Jacobsmeier, 15th Civil Engineering Squadron, Hickam Air Force Base;
Aca,!Ac Culinary Spc. 1st Class Shennan Pacheco, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Naval Station, Pearl Harbor;
Aca,!Ac Petty Officer 2nd Class Terrence Thornburgh, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, Sand Island;
Aca,!Ac Senior Airman Yommala Xaysanith, 154th Maintenance Operations Flight, Hickam Air Force Base.
In Wood, audience members learned of a Soldier who overcame life-threatening injuries to continue serving his community as a full-time foster parent.
During Wood's 2005 deployment to Iraq, an improvised explosive device, or IED, struck his vehicle, leaving him with several debilitating injuries. As a result, he spent 45 days in a coma and three years inside the Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C., recuperating.
Thereafter, Wood logged time in the Wounded Warrior program at Tripler Army Medical Center, where he was able "to make what might be considered an insurmountable recovery," according to event presenter Dan Carlson, vice president of Refining Tesoro Hawaii.
"Today, he is one of just 126 in the Army qualified for full medical retirement, but has continued on active duty status, serving not just his country, but his community," Carlson said.
In reaching out to his community, Wood has resumed work as a foster parent to over 100 children. He's even officially adopted two of those youngsters.
"(His) service provides a safe and stable family home to Hawaii's most vulnerable children," Carlson said.
Aside from recognizing enlisted personnel, event officials also presented this year's Doleman Award to Hawaii Kai's Darrell Large, a trustee for the Hawaii Army Museum's board of directors. A retired U.S. Army veteran who spent 24 years in the service of his country, Large has served as chief organizer behind the volunteer group, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, which provides financial relief to tourists who are victims of crime, and The Great Aloha Yard Sale, which raises thousands of dollars each year for community charity purposes.
Sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America, Hawaii State Chapter, the Doleman Award is presented to a retired officer for sustained, outstanding voluntary contributions to the community.
Prior to the presentation of awards, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona told audience members that the day's gathering was an opportunity "to expose our grateful hearts to all of you in the Armed Forces."
"You do a lot for our community," Aiona said. "And for us public officials, I know I say, thank you very much for what you do."
This year marked the 25th anniversary of Hawaii Military Appreciation Month, made up of events that honor the country's troops and their family member. The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii began this tradition in 1985 as a one-day event on Armed Forces Day, but eventually extended the activities into a monthlong celebration.
The grand finale is Saturday's Military Appreciation Day, sponsored by USO Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu. The day begins at 9:30 a.m., with a parade of Hawaii's military troops, past and present, from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park, and ends with free admission to the Honolulu Zoo for Hawaii's military families.