The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce honored a Sailor as the Military Citizen of the Year during a luncheon held at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Oct. 13.
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Brown stationed on board PCU Arlington (LPD 24) was chosen as this year’s honoree for his dedication and organization of volunteer work for the United Service Organizations (USO) located in the Norfolk International Airport.
“I’m honored,” said Brown upon receiving the award. “I’m also very happy to be here representing the Arlington. This was a win not only for myself but also all of their hard work. I’ve never been to a command where people volunteer the way they do here.”
“He was a volunteer there already when I came on as the center director,” said Amber McKinney. “He welcomed me in and we began discussing our visions and goals to better serve the military in our facility. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing Sailors and Marines sleeping on bags and waiting. He motivated and trained Sailors to come out and volunteer their time.”
Many volunteers would stand 12-hour watches in order to keep the facility open for military personnel, McKinney added.
“Community service is the primary way we interact with our environment and the way we embrace our neighbors,” said Brown.
In 2011, Brown volunteered more than 250 hours with the USO and Central Virginia’s Center alone. He also dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to other outreach programs in the Hampton Roads community such as Habitat for Humanity and served as a tour guide for the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
“I am very excited,” said McKinney. “It’s like watching your child win the spelling bee. He has been huge in helping the military to include training his people. It’s an honor to see his hard work pay off.”
Many other Sailors agree that Brown deserved to take home the award.
“I’m very proud,” said Cryptologic Technician Collection 3rd Class Jarad Krum, PCU Arlington (LPD 24) command coordinator for Habitat for Humanity and USO volunteer.
“I don’t think there is anyone that deserved it as much as him. I found out about the program through him and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m there every Monday and he’s always there to help.”
There were 29 nominations for the award that is named in honor of Samuel T. Northern, a local businessman who devoted most of his life to strengthening the relationship between the local community and the military.
“It is a difficult task to select a winner from those who have dedicated time and sometimes their own money,” said Ms. J.C. Kriedel, Immediate Past Chair of the Armed Forces Committee. “These fine young men and women have raised hundreds and thousands of dollars and inspired others to do the same.”
The event featured keynote speaker, retired Rear Adm. Byron Tobin, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, and a bell-ringing ceremony to commemorate the 237th birthday of the Navy.