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Whidbey sailors, marine honored
The 38th annual Navy League-Rotary Sailor and Marine of the Year award luncheon Dec. 9 filled the ballroom of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Officers’ Club with civilians and active duty military personnel alike.
The ceremony was short and sweet, but that in no way was a reflection of the great honor bestowed on the two sailors and Marine chosen to receive the awards.
Guests were welcomed by Navy League co-president Dick Devlin and Rotary Club president Kathy DeTuerk.
“Today we have the opportunity to honor the men and women who have served in the longest war in our nation’s history,” Devlin said.
“I can think of no better way to start the holiday season than by honoring the accomplishments of these men and women,” agreed DeTuerk.
This year’s honorees include Aviation Electronics Technician First Class James Conkey, Shore Sailor of the Year; Naval Air Crewman Operator First Class Christopher Shephard, Sea Sailor of the Year; and Staff Sgt. Joseph Napolitano, Marine of the Year.
The shore and sea sailor of the year are selected from a group of finalists from the major commands on base — the two air wings (Commander, Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10) Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, Navy Information Operations Command, Naval Ocean Processing Facility, NAS Whidbey, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit and Fleet Readiness Center Northwest. Marines are nominated and selected through Marine Aviation Training Support Group 53.
Command Master Chiefs, using criteria such as leadership, command responsibility, command impact, education and community service, choose the final sea and shore sailors of the year.
“You can’t believe the difficult decision they had to make,” said NAS Whidbey commanding officer, Capt. Jay Johnston. “We are proud of our Navy and Marine Corps personnel and what they do here.”
After their introduction, the men were showered with gifts and recognition from the sponsors, and Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik read a proclamation declaring Friday, Dec. 9, their day and commending them on their outstanding attitude and their focus on the community.
In the end, Navy League co-president Beth Munns fought back tears as she summed up the event.
“You are all very, very special. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all,” she said. “We are grateful to all the winners for all they do to protect our freedom every day.”