By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
SPOKANE, Wash. – Servicemembers from each branch of service were awarded the American Legion Department of Washington Spirit of Service Award (SOSA) during the annual convention held at the Centennial Hotel in Spokane, Wash., July 19, 2019.
The awardees, as well as their senior supervisors, attended the ceremony where they were presented the award by the American Legion State Commander Gary Roach and Spirit of Service Committee Chairman Jake Cabuag. Later in the evening, the servicemembers were honored again during a formal banquet.
This year’s SOSA award recipients were Army Sgt. Jin C. Lim, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord; Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeremy S. Pogue, assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Batallion-Bangor, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Lareisha Johnson, assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas A. Loew, assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base, and Coast Guard Yeoman 1st Class Rita M. Martinez, assigned to Coast Guard District Seattle.
“It’s an honor – I’m in awe right now, but it means a lot,” said Johnson. “It’s the most humbling thing I’ve experienced in the military so far.”
The American Legion gives the Spirit of Service Awards annually to enlisted servicemembers at the rank of E-6 and below in recognition of their exemplary military professionalism and active volunteerism in their local communities.
“Of course, we want the supervisors to look for military professionalism in their duties,” said Cabuag. “But, the main quality we’re looking for is what they do for the community and the service that they provide to the community where they are stationed.”
Award recipients are selected by each member’s respective service, with The American Legion not being involved in the selection process.
“It’s an honor to be here representing not only [Naval Air Station] Whidbey Island, but to represent the Navy,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Nicolas Minardo, Johnson’s senior enlisted leader. “It’s important that we are here, and that we remember what the members of The American Legion have done. They are all also veterans and we are all stewards of the community.”
“It feels great to get all of the servicemembers together here,” said Cabuag. “When I see the servicemembers together with our Legionnaires, interacting, it’s an incredible feeling.”