'Very Important Patriots' Recognized for Efforts

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2008 - The National Military Family Association has announced the five recipients of its 2008 "Very Important Patriot" award, given for exceptional volunteerism.

"These volunteers have demonstrated outstanding service that contributes to improving the quality of life in their military and/or neighboring communities," said Michelle Joyner, National Military Family Association's communications director, in an NMFA news release. "Due to the challenges of the current pace of military operations, volunteers play a critical role in providing support and stability in their communities."

Recipients of the 2008 Very Important Patriot Award will receive a $1,000 prize and a trip for two to Washington, D.C., in November that will culminate in the presentation of the awards during a ceremony Nov. 18.

The Very Important Patriots are:

-- Navy Chief Petty Officer Benigno Adones, Afloat Training Group Western Pacific, Yokosuka, Japan. Among other volunteer services, Adones was a member of the Commander Fleet Activity Yokosuka's alcohol de-glamorization campaign program, "Clear Vision 2008." He assisted the community, sailors, and families in promoting alternatives to drinking in an effort to reduce and prevent alcohol-related incidents in the community.

-- Wesley Bauguess, Fort Bragg, N.C. Soon after Bauguess lost her husband, Army Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr., she became actively involved in the formation of the Wounded Warrior Committee, established within the 82nd Airborne Division to benefit paratroopers wounded in combat. She hosted special events for wounded soldiers, visited them in hospitals, and gave each one special gifts, notes of support, and phone cards to contact their loved ones.

-- Air Force Staff Sgt. Veronica Bird, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Bird has contributed countless volunteer hours and headed up multiple fundraisers to benefit both the civilian and military community around her. She has led volunteers to care for pets at the Gulfport Humane Society, was a key member for the squadron Halloween party and "deployed family night at the movies," led volunteers for "Make a Difference Day," mentored fellow airmen, and was a member of the "Toys for Tots."

-- Karen Driscoll, Vienna, Va. When Tricare ended coverage for at-home applied behavior analysis treatment for Driscoll's autistic son, she was determined to resolve this issue for all military families with autistic children. She established a network of families, then gained the support of key senior military leaders, prepared position papers, and briefed staff members on Capitol Hill. Driscoll urged Congress to support increased federal funding for autism ABA treatment for military families, and her efforts paid off when the legislation passed.

-- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Harper, Sub Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, Honolulu. After learning of the pending cancellation of the physical education program at Lehua Elementary School because of budget reductions, Harper worked with the leadership of the school. Harper was able to solicit volunteers from the staff to provide a no-cost physical education program for more than 400 students.

NMFA also is recognizing 11 servicemembers and 19 family members with 2008 Awards of Merit. The recipients will receive a $100 commissary gift certificate.

A complete list of the Awards of Merit recipients is available on the National Military Family Association's Web site.

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