By Steve Bristow
Special to the News-Times
Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns and city council proclaimed Jan. 24 as “Sailor of the Year Day.”
Beginning with a statement of appreciation from state Sen. Ron Muzzall, a certificate of appreciation from Island County’s three commissioners and Severns’ proclamation, Oak Harbor celebrated Navy sailors at the annual Navy League and Rotary Sailor of the Year Recognition Luncheon.
Three sailors, one each from sea, shore and reserves, were especially singled out. These sailors were AWF1(NAC/AW) David J. McKinney from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One; AT1(AW) Lina Lim, from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit-Whidbey Island; and YN1(AW/SW) Jason C. Rosa from Patrol Squadron 69.
They were honored as the embodiment of excellence for their dedication to the Navy and citizens of Oak Harbor. By extension, they represented all sailors from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
Hosts Greg Smith and Steve Schwalbe, presidents of Oak Harbor Navy League and Rotary Club of Oak Harbor, welcomed the capacity crowd of roughly 160 Navy personnel, plus community and business leaders. Darin Hand, former base command master chief, served as master of ceremonies.
Keynote speaker, NAS Whidbey Island Commanding Officer Capt. Matt Arny, acknowledged the many efforts of “Team Whidbey” which were present at the Chief Petty Officer’s Club Ballroom. Leaders from Navy Junior ROTC units at Oak Harbor High School and Burlington-Edison High School were also introduced.
As a key theme, all sailors of the year, including junior “blue jacket” sailors of the year, were awarded Navy League/Rotary letters of commendation for their service.
The Navy League and Rotary sailors of the year were then presented with numerous awards and gifts from the community. These came from the elected leaders and multiple businesses through the Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Navy Federal Credit Union, Navy Morale Welfare and Recreation, Alaska USA, Military Wives, and Costco, plus Brandman, Columbia, and Embry-Riddle Universities, which have Navy campuses.
As an indication of the busy base tempo of operations, two of the three awardees were serving away from home. They were represented by their spouses and children. Ayaka McKinney was recognized with a Military Spouse’s Medal. The Military Child’s Medal was presented to Amelia and David McKinney Jr., plus Bianca Rosa.
“This is one of most important events we do as a community through the Navy League and Rotary,” said Navy League President Greg Smith. “It is our honor to show our appreciation to these great sailors and their families, and by extension the entire Navy.”
The sailors will receive one more award this summer, by being one of the lead entries in Oak Harbor’s nationally ranked Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade.
Steve Bristow is a current member and past president of the Oak Harbor Navy League.