The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce honored local military at its 16th Annual Virginia Beach Armed Forces Awards Luncheon on July 21. More than 100 service members stationed at commands in Virginia Beach were recognized for their outstanding military service by the Chamber and business community.
Overlooking the sparkling Atlantic Ocean on a bright and sunny afternoon, the awards luncheon was held at the Shifting Sands Beach Club at Dam Neck Annex. Military personnel assigned to commands at Naval Air Station Oceana, Dam Neck Annex and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story were joined by their family and friends, military leadership, elected officials and business leaders for an afternoon of “Thanks.”
Opening remarks were given by Captain James Webb, Executive Officer, NAS Oceana. He welcomed guests and expressed gratitude for the special recognition of the military community. The Honorable Jim Wood, Virginia Beach City Councilman, and John Wilson, Chair, Virginia Beach Division, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, also provided remarks.
Following a formal lunch, NAS Oceana Command Master Chief Robert Santiago introduced and welcomed each award winner to the front of the room. Service members received a certificate of recognition, a goody bag filled to the brim and a huge thanks on behalf of the business community from Joseph Licari, Vice President, USA Discounters; John Panneton, Representative, Congressman Glenn Nye; and Ira Agricola, Senior Vice President, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
Sergeant Lindsay Velasquez, assigned to the 11th Transportation Battalion at JEB Little Creek-Fort Story, was proud to be there representing the Army. “It’s nice to be recognized in this ‘Navy’ community. It’s also nice to know that people remember we’re here, not just as individuals, but the Army as a whole.” Sgt. Velasquez and Sgt. Albert Durant were invited to the luncheon after being named the “NCO of the Quarter” and “Soldier of the Quarter” by their command. Captain Craig Broe was proud of his junior soldiers and also happy to be there on behalf of the Army. Broe said, “It’s great that all of the services are incorporated for this event.” Sgt. Durant, who was a Private at the time of receiving his “Soldier of the Quarter” title, also noted the hard work that goes into this type of recognition. “Yes, there are the bragging rights and it does look great on your eval. But it’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of dedication because you also have to study on top of performing your job to the best of your ability.” Velasquez agreed, adding that “it can be hard when you have a family at home.”
Presenting sponsor USA Discounters understands this struggle and is appreciative of the Armed Forces. The company’s Vice President John Licari explained, “This is the least we can do. We’ve been the presenting sponsor of this event for the past 15 years. The ceremony started off recognizing seven individuals and today we have 107,” he said. “The more the merrier!”
Command Master Chief Santiago said, “We couldn’t have asked for a better turn out or a more successful event. The men and women here today do an outstanding job at their commands and it’s wonderful that the Chamber and sponsors recognize them for their hard work. We can’t thank them enough.”
Chamber member Bob Larned, Executive Director of Military Education, ECPI College of Technology, attended the event and said, “It’s an honor to be here and we can’t do enough for our military. We do everything we can to support them since so many of our students are either veterans or currently serving. They’re such an important part of our community and we are forever grateful.”
Many thanks to sponsors: USA Discounters (Presenting); Virginia Beach Convention Center and Omni Financial (Silver Sponsors); GEICO (Gold Military Program Partner); Bank of America, First Command, Lockheed Martin and Strayer University (Silver Military Program Partners); G4S Secure Solutions USA, Regent University and Saint Leo University-South Hampton Roads Center (Bronze Military Program Partners); ECPI College of Technology, Military Newspapers of Virginia, Navy Federal Credit Union, South University (Table Sponsors); Armed Services YMCA, Distinctive Gourmet, GEICO, Navy Federal Credit Union, Navy Wives Club 190, Omni Financial, Saint Leo University-South Hampton Roads Center, Strayer University (Gift Sponsors); Cabot of Vermont, Poe Enterprises, Steinhilber’s, USA Discounters (Drawing Contributors)