Despite their florescent yellow shirts, Bradd Fodor’s team members often go unnoticed as they work on the grounds at the Ault Field base.
That is, until recently, when the skipper himself recognized one of his most dedicated workers at New Leaf, Inc. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Commanding officer Capt. Matt Arny personally thanked Gene Pulu, a grounds worker for his excellent work and presented Pulu with his personal coin.
“I can’t believe I just shook his hand today,” Pulu said of meeting Arny.
Pulu is entering his fourth year with New Leaf, an Oak Harbor nonprofit that helps provide employment to adults with disabilities. He’s part of an 11-person grounds crew at the base and recently was also recognized by Source America for his “exceptional character, outstanding achievement and for setting inspiring work and life examples,” according to a press release.
Pulu, while grateful for his individual recognition, recognizes the hard work from everyone in the crew. Moments after receiving the coin from Arny, he said he wanted to show it to everybody he worked with.
The crew members mow, trim and pick up trash to keep the property looking pristine. Pulu said he enjoys the work because it’s outside and because of who it benefits.
“I like to work to help the military for their sacrifice and their service to our country,” he said.
Arny said he appreciates the work that all of the New Leaf employees do each day. He said it’s evident from the condition of the grounds that they take pride in what they do, especially Pulu.
“It’s an important job he does, and I’m glad he does it so well,” Arny said.
The coin Arny presented to Pulu has the insignia of the air station on one side and the aircraft from Arny’s Navy background on the other. He said he gives them out to give recognition of great service and that Pulu “certainly earned it.”
Pulu was badly burned as a young child and had to stay in the hospital for six months for his operation. Glen Kincaid, director of operations at New Leaf, told SourceAmerica that because of his appearance, it was difficult for Pulu to find employment.
He came to Oak Harbor in the late 1990s to live near his brother. Pulu’s project manager, Bradd Fodor, said his whole crew does good work, but Pulu’s work ethic can be inspiring for the rest of the team. He recognizes that the team is only as strong as its weakest link, but Pulu is his strongest, he said.
“Gene is pretty much the guy we can count on,” Fodor said.