Washington, May 25, 2018 - The USO's 2018 Service Members of the Year will be honored Saturday. The annual Six Star Service salute recognizes the best of the best from each branch. Also highlighting the event will be a special guest speaker and son of Guam.
USO Area director Leigh Graham says the honorees will come from each service, saying, "We speak with the senior ranking officers of each branch at the beginning of the year. The process takes about six months. So they're chosen from throughout the branch, by the branch."
The USO volunteer of the year will also be recognized for outstanding service in an organization that was first formed to assist with the spiritual, welfare and educational needs of the troops. The USO welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year at its two Guam centers. "Our military is mobile, agile, tactile right? So to serve them appropriately with the correct types of programs and services, we have to be just as flexible. To be ahead of their needs," Graham said.
The keynote speaker for the six star service salute is Sgt. Major Vincent Santiago. The Merizo native is the command senior enlisted leader for the defense security cooperation agency in Washington, DC. He's served now for 29-years, and says one of the highlights of his career was joining the 3rd Marine Division. Guam's liberating force, who he also credits for saving his grandmother's life.
"And to be the sergeant major for 3rd Marine Division, words can't describe it. I'll get choked up, I'll lose track of what I'm saying. Only because of so much pride I have in one, being a marine, two, being from Guam, and three, serving in the division that liberated our island," he said.
Santiago says his message to the honorees will be the importance of having support. Like the USO, and like family. He credits his wife Selma for raising their two boys to become Marines themselves. "They're successful because of her. I come home and I do the best I can and try to fit into the team. But I know that their success is due to my wife. So in that aspect, the service members success is due to the support of their family members, whether they're married or single, it doesn't matter," he said.
"We've been blessed and fortunate when he did deploy and stuff they weren't depressed. They were sad and they missed their dad, but they knew he was going to come home and they knew they had to be on their best behavior and they knew they had to do well in school for dad. But for us the biggest thing is, I never want him to deal with any family issues at home."
2018 Service Members of the Year are Army Specialist Tyler Currie, Marine sergeant Gabriel Brownlee, Navy corpsman Alec White, Air force staff sergeant Christopher Dawley, coast guard petty officer Eric Weill, Guam National Guard specialist Justin Deleon Guerrero, and USO volunteer of the year Elysia Wallace.