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Strengthening Our Military Family® | Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads

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MILITARY FAMILY APPRECIATION MONTH

Established in 1993 by the Armed Services YMCA, Military Family Appreciation Month recognizes the sacrifices that families make to support their Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen. Each year, the President signs a proclamation marking the beginning of a month-long celebration of the Military Family in which the Department of Defense and the nation will honor the commitment and sacrifices made by the families of our nation's service members. 

For the past 27 years, the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads has taken this recognition further by hosting the Five Star Military Family Recognition Luncheon. This annual event recognizes active duty, enlisted service members, and their families who best represent service to their country and commitment to their local community through a spirit of volunteerism. Families are nominated by their Commands, family, friends, and peers.  

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2020 FIVE STAR MILITARY FAMILY RECOGNITION EVENT

The Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads held the 26th Annual Five Star Military Family Recognition Virtual Event on Thursday, December 17, 2020. The event is held each year usually in November during Military Family Appreciation Month to recognize the outstanding volunteer efforts of active-duty enlisted families in Hampton Roads. This year it was held virtually so we could still have the chance to honor one family from each branch of service.

You may view the program from the event here.

USAA has served as the Title Sponsor since 2017. At last year's event Joel Vargas, retired LCDR - US Navy, current Armed Services YMCA Board Chair, and Military Affairs Representative at USAA said, “We are so excited to be involved with this event again this year. It is such a pleasure to honor military families who make it a priority to support their community. Service is one of our core values here at USAA and we love having the opportunity to recognize those families that make it a priority."

Every year the winning families are truly deserving of recognition and appreciation. All of the families nominated demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their communities. The selected Five Star families showed an unquestioned dedication to service. We were lucky to have all of our recognized families and many of our other nominated families in attendance.

"Our mission is to support and strengthen our local military families, here, at the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads. We understand the challenges they face and the sacrifices they make every day. Our programs are designed to provide support to these families in their day-to-day life. The Five Star Luncheon gives us an opportunity to recognize those families who take their service a step further. In addition to their commitment to their country and their families - they are committed to making their communities stronger. It is an honor to recognize their efforts.” Laura Baxter, Executive Director of Armed Services YMCA - Hampton Roads.

THANK YOU TO OUR PRESENTING SPONSOR

 

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AND OUR MILITARY FAMILY SPONSORS

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THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR ADDITIONAL SPONSORS FOR THEIR AMAZING SUPPORT

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2020 FIVE STAR FAMILY HONOREES

Army Family

US ARMY | THE SMITH FAMILY

In January, it will be 19 years that CW2 Chris Smith has served in the Army, along with his wife Jen and son Clayton. CW2 Smith has been working with, and assisting, local Police K9 handlers and their K9’s with a variety of skills, to include K9 deployment. The family also purchases, trains, and then donates dogs to service members in need of companion dogs. Mrs. Smith volunteers at the local ASPCA and always has wherever they have been stationed. Volunteering also becomes a bonding time with the family when Clayton participates with his mom and dad during local community clean up days and beautification. They are also supporters of the police department with donations during fundraising events. Says Chris about his family, “We stay genuine to who we are in our morals and values, while improving ourselves and our local community.”


Marine Family Photo - Elliott Family

US MARINE CORPS | THE ELLIOT FAMILY

SSgt, Jacob Elliott has served in the Marines for 14 years and 9 months, along with his wife Sarah and children Connor and Alyssa. SSgt Elliott, a committee member for Boy Scouts of America Troop 79, has been a merit badge counselor since Dec 2019 and he was recently selected as incoming Scout Master. Sarah has also been involved with Troop 79 since December 2019 and is a merit badge counselor and has been an advancement committee chairman since July. She is also a Family Readiness Volunteer, volunteers in events, service projects, and with weekly religious education services with the Little Creek Fort Story Chapel, and she volunteers when possible as “class mom” at John B Dey Elementary School. The family also volunteers with Operation Homefront to collect food and arrange holiday meals for service members. Volunteering is not new for this family. Says, SSgt Elliott, “Our family has used volunteer work for years as a way of giving back to the community and showing our children that every little bit helps. Before coming to the Hampton Roads area, my wife was a PTA president for 3 years in North Carolina and volunteered at a local animal rescue with our children. Prior to that we were stationed in Long Island, NY where I was a volunteer in the Fire Department and Sarah was a volunteer with the Ladies Auxiliary.”

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US NAVY | THE ARNOLD FAMILY

ABF2 Chris Arnold has served in the Navy for 5 years, along with his wife Thuy and daughter Katy Lynn. Thuy sewed 235 masks for international students through the Global Friendship organization and members of the community via the COVID-19 Sewing Taskforce for Hampton Roads. The family has been active in this organization serving foreign students, immigrants, and their families in our metro area for several years. Before the pandemic, they volunteered by bringing meals and serving international and community dinners on Fridays for the past two years. Thuy provided photography sessions free of charge and distributed 500 professional images to international students and their families. Dr. Kurnia Foe, with the Global Student Friendship Organization who nominated the Arnold Family shares that “the family’s contributions helped hundreds of international students from 30-40 nations feel welcome and loved. Her face masks not only saved lives but also made our students feel much love from her. While Thuy was assisting with masks, Chris volunteered in our furniture service, providing furniture for international students and immigrant families free of charge. Both Thuy and Chris are essential members of our organization. They help us serve those who are far from their homes to feel “at home” in our country. Their contributions are invaluable. We cannot thank them enough for what they have meant to everyone in our organization. Thuy and Chris make America better in the eyes of these foreigners by serving them well, and that serves us well.” Additionally, in Chris’ “spare” time, he is the North Hampton Volunteer Fire Company Vice President and Executive Committee Chair. As part of the company, he also volunteers as an EMT providing basic emergency medical services and driving the ambulance ensuring prompt, effective care to vulnerable members of the community. 

Air Force Family Photo - Driscoll Family

US AIR FORCE | THE DRISCOLL FAMILY

In this dual military family, a commitment to volunteerism is a priority. Conventional Maintenance Crew Chief, SSgt Braeden Driscoll has served in the Air Force for 7 years. His wife, Munitions Controller SSgt Alana Driscoll has served for 4 yrs. They have a little “fur child’ Kiba. The couple was nominated by 1st Fighter Wing Command Chief, Chris Gradel who said, “Braeden and Alana have done an amazing job stepping up to help support others on base and through the community. Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll also volunteers at the USO Newport News Airport Center assisting thousands of veterans annually. Additionally, they have volunteered time serving the Southeastern VA Food Bank. Avid supporters of the military community, they devoted time to raise money for the combined federal campaign and helped pull off a safe and socially distant 1st Fighter Wing POW/MIA Recognition Run despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the duo is volunteering with Toys for Tots to ensure kids in need will be taken care of for this Holiday season.

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US COAST GUARD | THE LEHMANN FAMILY

Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Stephen Lehmann has been active in the Coast Guard for 14 years. His wife Jenn is a Full Time elementary school teacher, and they have two sons, Jackson and Bennett. For the Lehmann’s, volunteering is a family affair. For the past two years, the Lehmann family has volunteered to organize annual fundraising efforts for Cub Scouts Pack 504. Called the Popcorn Kernel, the role involves identifying sales locations, managing the supply of popcorn, fulfilling orders, validating documentation, and cheerleading the efforts of the young scouts. Last year, the family’s efforts resulted in more than $21,000 raised in sales, which included over $3,000 in donations for Operation: Thank You, a non-profit in support of the US military. This year has been a challenge with the pandemic, as Cub Master Matt LeClaire confirms, “Organizing popcorn sales has been no easy task in 2020, but this has not prevented Jenn from providing dedicated and much needed support for our unit. Jenn created online sales accounts, distributed “door hangers” to allow for no contact sales, and contacted multiple businesses to acquire authorization to conduct “Show and Sells” at the businesses. Popcorn sales is the only fundraising efforts that our pack does for the entire scouting year. Without help from Jenn and her family, our pack families would have no choice but to pay scouting dues on their own. Jenn is more than a volunteer, she is a hero”. Jenn, who is a 5th grade teacher at Birdneck Elementary, also finds time to provide advisement to families navigating the military special needs program, assisting with advice for Individualized Education Plans and providing advocacy for children receiving educational remediation.

Says, Stephen of his family, “My family is a 5 star family because of the way they come together and fill the hole I leave when I’m required to deploy. Currently, I am deployed to Delaware where I’m providing community relation and governmental affairs support for the Unified Command responding to oiled debris and tar balls littering approximately 50 miles of coastline. I learned of my departure only 2 days prior to leaving and my amazing family jumped into action to meet my commitments during my absence. This isn’t the first time that they’ve shown such outstanding flexibility and resilience. Every time duty calls, they demonstrate incredible support for me and my service!” Stephen has returned home in time to spend the Holidays with his incredible family!

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