Nearly 250 servicemen and women and business professionals from the community attended the Military Citizen of the Year Luncheon hosted by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce on October 9th at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.
Bryan K. Stephens, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, provided opening remarks. “These outstanding men and women in uniform are not only serving our nation with great distinction but additionally volunteering countless hours of community service to make Hampton Roads a better place to live, work and raise families.”
The Mayor of Norfolk, Paul Fraim provided remarks and recognized the 240th birthday of the United States Navy, honoring the dates October 9th through the 18th under the heading of Fleet Week.
Delegate Matthew James, Virginia House of Delegates (80th District) served as the Keynote Speaker. He summed up his message by quoting President Ronald Reagan, “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world but military workers don’t ever have to worry about that problem.” James summarized by stating, “You’ve made a difference, so keep up the good work, continue the good fight and we truly appreciate what you are doing and what you will continue to do.”
The Samuel T. Northern Military Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Staff Sergeant Tracey Evans of Air Combat Command, Detachment 4. Evans was among 32 nominees for this award, which honors an individual whose personal and public volunteer contributions have had the most positive effect on the Hampton Roads community. The luncheon also gives the Hampton Roads business community the opportunity to show its appreciation for the local military presence.
Evans is currently stationed in Germany so Technical Sergeant Buranski accepted the award on her behalf. The audience was able to view a video of Evans who shared her humble appreciation. “I am extremely grateful to be honored as this year’s Samuel T. Northern Military Citizenof the Year,” said Evans. “Thank you to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee for selecting me over what I am sure was a great group of nominees. This is all a big surprise to me because I was simply doing something that I loved, which is to help others within my community. It feels amazing when I get the opportunity to positively affect the lives of others. I would like to thank Technical Sergeant Buranski for nominating me for this award. I am truly humbled and forever grateful for being added to a list of other great military citizens who have previously been awarded this great honor.”
Staff Sergeant Evans volunteer work includes delivering food to the elderly through Meals on Wheels and serving at multiple concerts and events throughout Hampton Roads. She is involved in the Healthy Families Partnership and has raised over $18,000 to date. She enjoys volunteering at the Veterans Assistance Hospital where she spends quality time with our nation’s heroes and also volunteers for “Feds Feed Families” collecting and distributing hundreds of pound of food to impoverished veterans and their families. Because of her passion for serving others, SSgt Evans established a unit forum called the “Detachment 4 Outreach Program” which provides volunteer opportunities for military members.
Samuel T. Northern was a local businessman who devoted most of his life to strengthening the relationship between the local community and the military. Since 1951, this award has been given annually to recognize the military citizen who has made the most significant contribution in the area of community service. Each year, commands based throughout Hampton Roads are asked to nominate individuals for this honor. Members of the Chamber’s Armed Forces Committee then select the winner based upon their full, active and sustained participation in activities that benefit the community. Nominees are involved in everything from coaching Little League® teams, youth mentoring, fundraising, emergency medical services, and many more community programs.
“My father served in the navy, but I did not. As the chair of the Chamber’s armed forces committee, I have found a way to serve our military men and women,” said Michael Camden, whose day job is Enrollment Coordinator at Troy University. “The armed forces committee recognizes our local military personnel who not only place themselves in harm’s way, but also find opportunities to support the Hampton Roads community with their time and talent. They are coaches, volunteers, mentors, builders, and trash collectors. The armed forces committee hosts events, like the Military Citizen of the Year, to honor these local community heroes and bridges the gap between them and business leaders from around the region. These young men and women are our future military and business leaders and we want them to continue to call Hampton Roads “home”.”