Whidbey’s top Sailors, Marine, honored

Community service and selfless volunteerism shoved three Whidbey Island Naval Air Station personnel into the limelight Friday afternoon in the Officers’ Club.

The Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League and Rotary Club recognized the Sea and Shore Sailors and Marine of the Year during the well-attended ceremony.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Foxworthy, Aviation Electronics Technician with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two “Rangers” was floored by the honor of being named Sea Sailor of the Year.

“Holy cow, I was speechless when I found out. It’s a big deal, it’s an honor,” she said.

Foxworthy said she respects what the Navy League stands for, namely patriotism, integrity and community involvement.

“I try to emulate that,” she said.

The petty officer volunteers at the M-Bar-C Ranch in Freeland, as well as at Oak Harbor Middle School track meets. However, she is not content to simply fly solo when donating her time.

“My thing is, I’m not only volunteering but I reach out to the junior sailors around the base so that they can get involved as well,” Foxworthy said. “That way they have something to feel proud about. It’s all about networking.”

The Shore Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald Vash, was equally surprised by the accolade.

An aviation structural mechanic at the Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, Vash said it was great to be recognized. In addition to volunteering with the Special Olympics, when home in Arlington, Texas, he volunteers with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, an association that fights a disease very near to his heart.

“My mother has a very rare form of the disease,” he said.

Balancing his naval duties with a full schedule of voluntary servitude has been made easy by supportive brass.

“The command really supports our community service activities,” Vash said. “A lot of my community service has been with the 1st Class Petty Officers Association. The command really helps us out and supports us.”

Marine Corps Sgt. Thomas Herrera was named Rotary Marine of the Year. He works for Electronic Attack Squadron 129 under the umbrella of Marine Aviation Training Support Group 53. And this marine was beaming.

“It means a lot to me,” said Herrera, who is active with Toys for Tots and the NJROTC program. “The Rotary Club and the Navy League, they don’t have to do anything like this. They can just recognize the leaders of Oak Harbor and of Whidbey Island. They recognize us on this base for the job that we do. We just come to work everyday and just try to do whatever we can do. So when someone gives us that kind of recognition saying that you went above and beyond the rest of the Marines, that’s a big deal to me.”

The Oak Harbor Navy League and Rotary Club members take the awards seriously, paying homage annually to men and women who not only serve their community, but their country.

“The Navy League of Oak Harbor and our co-sponsors, the Rotary Club, have carried on this tradition for 34 years,” said Navy League President Ed Witt. “It’s just a small way we can show our appreciation for their many sacrifices such as deployments and being separated from their families.”

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