AUSA Announces 2023 National Award Winners

AUSA Announces 2023 National Award Winners

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Photo by: Rod Lamkey for AUSA

The Association of the U.S. Army has announced the recipients of its 2023 National Awards, which honor individuals for their selfless service and dedication to the Army and its soldiers.

“Congratulations to our National Award recipients! Their dedication, commitment and desire to serve and support our Army is an example to us all,” said retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA president and CEO. “Each of our honorees has made a difference in the lives of others and in support of our Army and our nation. They represent the very best of AUSA, and I look forward to honoring them in October.”

The awards will be presented at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 9–11 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

During the annual meeting, AUSA also will honor retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Army chief of staff and secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. AUSA earlier this year announced that Shinseki is the 2023 recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal. AUSA’s highest award, the Marshall Medal is presented for distinguished and selfless service.

Shinseki was chosen because of his decades of selfless service to the United States and particularly because of his many efforts to support the Army and its soldiers and veterans.

Here’s a closer look at this year’s National Award recipients.

Abrams Medal

The General Creighton W. Abrams Medal for exceptional service to the U.S. Army will be awarded to retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, a Medal of Honor recipient who led the fielding team for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, served as commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, commanded Fifth Army and inspired and mentored generations of soldiers.

“I have known Bob all my professional life and don’t think I know anyone who epitomizes what Gen. Abrams stood for more than him,” retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, who served as the 33rd Army chief of staff, wrote in a letter endorsing Foley for the award.

Abrams was the architect of the modern-day all-volunteer Army and a leader of character, competence, commitment and courage, Reimer wrote. “Today’s Army reflects his accomplishments. These accomplishments would not be possible without soldiers like [retired Lt. Gen.] Robert Foley,” Reimer wrote.

A 1963 graduate of West Point, Foley earned the Medal of Honor while serving as commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, in Vietnam. On Nov. 5, 1966, Foley and his soldiers were ordered to extricate another company that had come under siege by the enemy, according to his Medal of Honor citation. Moving through the thick jungle, the soldiers encountered a strong enemy force, and the company’s leading element quickly sustained several casualties.

Foley immediately ran forward to direct the company’s efforts and led his soldiers in an attack on the enemy. When both radio operators accompanying him were wounded, Foley defied the heavy enemy fire and helped his soldiers to safety, according to the citation.

As he moved forward again, one of his machine-gun crews was wounded. “Seizing the weapon, he charged forward firing the machine gun, shouting orders, and rallying his men, thus maintaining the momentum of the attack,” the citation says.

Under increasingly heavy enemy fire, Foley ordered his assistant to take cover, and he moved forward alone, firing the machine gun until the wounded were evacuated. Foley continued to fight after being wounded by an enemy grenade, leading the assault on several enemy gun emplacements and single-handedly destroying three of them.

After Vietnam, Foley served in various assignments across the Army, including in Germany, South Korea and the Pentagon.

After 37 years of Army service, Foley retired in 2000. He has served as president of Marion Military Institute, a junior college in Alabama, and as director of Army Emergency Relief.

He is the author of Standing Tall: Leadership Lessons in the Life of a Soldier.

Drexel Biddle Medal

The Major General Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal for outstanding contributions to the Association of the U.S. Army will be awarded to retired Lt. Col. F.D. “Dick” Winter and Mary Jane Jernigan.

Winter, president of AUSA’s George Washington chapter, retired from the Army in 1993 after serving in command and staff positions in organizations such as the 1st Armored Division, Fifth Army and the Combined Arms Center. He also served at West Point and in several assignments in NATO commands.

After leaving the Army, Winter worked in the defense industry and has been active in AUSA, serving in several volunteer leadership roles. He is in his third year as president of the George Washington chapter.

“In that position, he has presided over steady growth of the chapter, and he has led its many efforts to advance the mission of AUSA in our local area,” retired Lt. Gen. Richard Formica wrote in a letter endorsing Winter for the award. “He has organized numerous efforts to provide gift cards to soldiers facing food insecurity and serves as the tournament director of the chapter’s annual golf tournament, raising awareness of AUSA and, importantly, raising money to award scholarships to deserving youths.”

Winter led the chapter through the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining ties to the chapter’s community partners and industry sponsors, Formica wrote. He also maintains a “robust and professionally rewarding” luncheon series that brings together Army and industry leaders.

“Dick epitomizes the values of AUSA, and his contributions extend far beyond his leadership positions within the organization,” retired Lt. Gen. David Halverson wrote in a letter endorsing Winter. “Dick’s service aligns with the guiding principles of AUSA, such as dedication, innovation, excellence and inclusion.”

Jernigan is a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army for Maryland-North, advocating for the Army and serving as a liaison between the community and the Army secretary. She also is vice president of business development for LOGYX and previously provided logistical and technical support to the Army Test and Evaluation Command and the Army Research Laboratory as a subject-matter expert in human systems integration.

Jernigan is an avid supporter of the troops. In 2003, she began supporting a soldier who was deployed to Iraq, sending monthly letters and care packages for the duration of the soldier’s yearlong deployment. Her encouragement meant so much to the soldier that he traveled from Georgia to Maryland to meet her and asked her to stand with him when he was promoted.

Over the years, Jernigan has supported more than 1,000 deployed soldiers with care packages.

In 2007, Jernigan began looking to get involved in the local AUSA chapter at Aberdeen Proving Ground. She became the chapter president and turned an inactive chapter into one that drew 150 to 250 attendees to its monthly meetings.

Jernigan served as chapter president for more than three years. During her tenure, the Aberdeen chapter was honored three years in a row with the award for “Best All-Around Chapter.” She now serves on the board of directors for the chapter, which has been renamed the MG Harry Greene, Aberdeen chapter, and she is the Maryland State president for AUSA.

“Wherever she goes and whatever she touches, Mary Jane makes the organization better by any standard,” retired Command Sgt. Maj. W. Douglas Gibbens, former president of AUSA’s Second Region, wrote in a letter endorsing Jernigan. “She is a person who gets things done, and her loyalty to soldiers, Army families and to the Association of the United States Army knows no bounds.”

Cribbins Medal

The Joseph P. Cribbins Medal for exemplary service by a Department of the Army civilian will be awarded to Renita Wickes-Deason, director of public affairs at Fort Irwin, California.

Wickes-Deason first served at Fort Irwin, home of the National Training Center, in 1989 when she arrived as a soldier. After leaving the Army, Wickes-Deason worked for Raytheon before returning to government service in 2009. “Her tireless efforts, caring attitude and ability to put herself in [soldiers’] place has enabled her to showcase soldiers and the Army on a grand scale,” Tashara Bunch of AUSA’s National Training Center-High Desert chapter wrote in a letter nominating Wickes-Deason for the award. “Her efforts have created relationships and given the Army a reach with not just the local communities but with communities across California and Las Vegas.”

As an example, Wickes-Deason created and plans the Fort Irwin VIP Box Tour, which brings in community leaders, celebrities and influencers to visit the National Training Center. She revamped the media training conducted during rotations, making it more realistic and relevant. Wickes-Deason also has worked to strengthen the post’s relationships with neighboring communities including Barstow, Adelanto, Victorville, Apple Valley and Hesperia, Bunch wrote. Serving as the Fort Irwin public affairs director since October 2021, Wickes-Deason continues to tell the Army and Fort Irwin story.

Wickes-Deason also is an active volunteer, serving as the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce military affairs chairperson and is a volunteer and speaker for the American Cancer Society, speaking at more than 70 events as a cancer survivor and caregiver, Bunch wrote.

She also is active in AUSA, including serving as president of the NTC-High Desert chapter. Under her leadership, the chapter had its most successful fundraising events, allowing it to support soldiers, families, veterans and Gold Star families through a school supply giveaway, a volunteer recognition ceremony, scholarships and more.

Wickes-Deason’s “passion and love for the Army and soldiers shows without speaking,” Bunch wrote.

Dixon Award

The John W. Dixon Award for outstanding contributions to national defense from industry will be awarded to Harold Yoh III and Day & Zimmermann, a 120-year-old family-owned company specializing in construction and engineering, operations and maintenance, staffing, security and defense for corporations and governments around the world. Yoh has been the company’s chairman and CEO since 1999.

“Since World War I, the company has provided vital services to the U.S. national security mission and our armed forces by building munitions plants, manufacturing munitions or serving as an operator at government-owned contractor-operated facilities,” retired Brig. Gen. John McGuiness of AUSA’s Penn & Franklin-Greater Philadelphia chapter wrote in a letter nominating Yoh and the company for the award.

As chairman and CEO, Yoh has been integral in shaping the company’s growth, and today it is a leading provider of munitions to the national defense, McGuiness wrote.

“Hal’s efforts have made an incredible difference in the amount of artillery rounds delivered to Ukraine, which has become a major test of artillery systems,” McGuiness wrote. “Hal’s tremendous efforts go beyond its critical infrastructure, construction, security and training support and extends to the human aspects of serving in the U.S. military.”

Yoh and his company have participated in several initiatives supporting service members and their families, including the USO, Toys for Tots and Wreaths Across America, McGuiness wrote. Day & Zimmermann also participates in veteran hiring programs such as Hiring Our Heroes and Helmets to Hardhats, and the company proudly employs “countless” veterans, McGuiness wrote.

“The above accomplishments merely scratch the surface of the impact Hal Yoh has made and continues to make on the national defense,” McGuiness wrote. “While he has already contributed so much, it is with confidence I say Hal is only getting started.”

Bainbridge Medal

The Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge Medal for contributions to the Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps will be awarded to retired Sgt. Maj. Scott Leeling, who served on active duty for 25 years and retired as the command career counselor for U.S. Army Europe.                

Leeling, an AUSA life member who was president of the association’s Pikes Peak chapter from July 2020 to June 2023, enlisted in the Army in 1988. He has served in Army units across the U.S. and in Germany and South Korea, and he served two combat deployments in Iraq. He also served in Bosnia.

In retirement, Leeling leads the military division at Crosscountry Mortgage, where he formulates plans for the military and veteran markets and develops programs to support service members, veterans and their spouses.

Leeling also is president of the Pikes Peak Sergeants Major Association, a member of the Army Chief of Staff’s Retired Soldier Council and an ambassador for Mt. Carmel Veteran Services.

“I have been fortunate enough to know SGM Leeling for more than 15 years, and I have seen his dedication to the Army, soldiers, family members and the community on countless occasions,” retired Col. Thomas Powell wrote in a letter endorsing Leeling for the award. “In every effort he undertakes relating to the Army, he always shows dedication, inspired leadership, enthusiasm and a caring attitude. He is a leader in every nuance of the word.”

As AUSA chapter president, Leeling “leads the team with the same enthusiasm, initiative and caring demeanor he had while on active duty,” Powell wrote. During his tenure, Leeling led efforts to raise more than $100,000 to help the community and was a driving force for the annual Santa’s Workshop, which delivers toys to military families in need.

He also spends hours making sure soldiers and their families are supported, mentored, guided, recognized and thanked for their service.

“His exceptional leadership, unwavering dedication to duty, and significant contributions to the Army make him a true role model and deserving of this esteemed recognition,” retired Sgt. Maj. Chester Miller, president of the AUSA Pikes Peak chapter, wrote in a letter endorsing Leeling.

McLain Medal

The Lieutenant General Raymond S. McLain Medal, given to a current or former member of the National Guard for advancing a seamless and component-integrated Army, will be awarded to retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, who retired in 2021 after serving as commanding general of the Texas National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division.

“Gen. Hamilton is a leader of America’s Army, not just the Army National Guard,” retired Col. Garry Patterson, president of AUSA’s Texas Capital Area chapter, wrote in a letter nominating Hamilton. “His reputation for leadership excellence, keen management skills, and compassion for people translated into major contributions to the State of Texas and our Nation as well as contributions to the Total Army.”

A 1986 graduate of Texas A&M University, Hamilton served in armor and cavalry units in the Texas National Guard for 35 years. As commander of the 36th Infantry Division, Hamilton led the division headquarters to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield where he commanded soldiers in nine countries across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. He also has deployed to Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Back home, Hamilton was chief of staff to the adjutant general of Texas and director of operations for the Texas Army National Guard. He also led the joint task force responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that lashed Texas and Louisiana in August 2017, leading 18,000 troops from all components providing support for evacuation operations, search and rescue, shelter operations and distribution of relief supplies.

He is on the board of directors for the CHASCO YMCA in central Texas and the board of governors for the Central Texas Community Foundation. Hamilton also is an active member of his local VFW post, the National Guard Association of Texas and AUSA’s Texas Capital Area chapter.

“Gen. Hamilton has been a leader in his local community of Round Rock, Texas,” Patterson wrote. “His unprecedented level of commitment and personal involvement in community programs and activities has positively touched the lives of many thousands of Texans.”

Rudder Medal

The Major General James Earl Rudder Medal, given to a current or former member of the U.S. Army Reserve for advancing a seamless and component-integrated Army, is awarded to retired Col. L. Gordon Sumner Jr., a member of AUSA’s Potomac-Liberty chapter and Army Reserve Ambassador for Virginia.

Sumner is “the epitome of volunteerism endowed with a heart for selfless service,” retired Lt. Col. Nancy Jean-Louis, president of the Potomac-Liberty chapter, wrote in a letter nominating Sumner.

An active member of AUSA since 1975, Sumner began his Army career in the Army Reserve in Alabama. He then moved to the Regular Army, where he used his experiences in the Reserve to revamp the ROTC Advance Camp at then-Fort Lewis, Washington. Pulling in expertise in the Reserve, Sumner gained support from 22 Reserve units to serve as instructors at the camp, training more than 1,500 cadets.

As an Army Reserve Ambassador, Sumner connects the component with its local communities and leaders and helps tell the Army Reserve story. He also is a member of several veterans service organizations, including leading the Greater Washington, D.C., chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. In the past 15 years, the chapter has visited more than 63,000 veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and area VA medical centers.

Sumner also leads National Purple Heart Day celebrations and ceremonies at Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington, growing the annual event from a small gathering of Purple Heart recipients into a major event featuring leaders from government and industry.

He also supports fundraising events by the AUSA chapter and has been instrumental in building partnerships between the chapter and other veterans groups, including the local American Legion and VFW posts.

Today, Sumner is president and CEO of Gordon Sumner Consulting LLC. He previously led Veterans Moving Forward, a nonprofit providing service and emotional support dogs to veterans. He also is AUSA’s president for the National Capital Region, representing the association across Virginia, and a senior fellow and affiliate faculty at George Mason University. A member of the Santee tribe, Sumner also is a sought-after speaker on leadership, motivation and citizenship.

“One might ask, what is Gordon Sumner good at? The answer is simply everything,” retired Col. W. Glenn Yarborough, AUSA’s 2nd Region president, wrote in a letter endorsing Sumner. “Gordon jumps at the chance to get stuff done. He is the ultimate volunteer, and when Gordon accepts a challenge, he gets it done.”

Volunteer Family of the Year

The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Lt. Col. Robert “Jody” Shipley.

Shipley, his wife, Emily, and their three children—Grace, Gage and Hailey—also are the 2023 Volunteer Family of the Year for Fort Cavazos, Texas.

At Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood, Shipley commands the troop battalion at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

“This family makes a difference every single day in the lives of everyone they meet,” Nancy Patterson of AUSA’s Central Texas chapter wrote in a letter nominating the family. “As parents, they have taught their children the importance of selfless service, working together as a team, assisting those who might need a little pick-me-up.”

In the past year, the Shipley family has logged more than 1,000 hours supporting several events and organizations, including more than 560 hours supporting the troop battalion’s Soldier and Family Readiness Group in serving a unit with more than 600 soldiers and a hospital that employs more than 2,000 Army civilians and their families. They were instrumental in events celebrating Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they helped coordinate an end of summer bash.

The Shipleys also spent more than 360 hours volunteering at and supporting many events at Memorial Christian Academy. They also volunteered at Memorial Baptist Church, the Killeen Food Bank and Garden of Hope, a shelter for children entering the foster care system.

“They are the embodiment of giving from the heart, and their exceptional level of community involvement stands as an example for others to emulate,” Patterson wrote. “They have and continue to touch the lives of many. Their seemingly boundless energy and genuine desire and determination to make a difference is truly inspiring.”

National Service Award

AUSA is honored to present its National Service Award to Veterans United Home Loans, which works to help veterans and military families become homeowners.

In the past 20 years, the company has closed more than 500,000 VA loans and become the No. 1 VA lender for homebuyers in the nation, according to its website. The Veterans United Foundation, the company’s nonprofit arm, has raised more than $120 million for veteran organizations, military families and local communities. Launched in 2011, the foundation is built on employee contributions that are matched dollar for dollar by Veterans United Home Loans, according to the foundation’s website.

“In both their highly successful business activities and in their far-ranging charitable work, Veterans United focuses on supporting soldiers, veterans and their families,” retired Gen. Carter Ham, former AUSA president and CEO, wrote in a letter nominating the company for the award.

One key to the company’s success is the “extraordinary effort” it makes to educate current and prospective homebuyers, from determining eligibility to taking ownership of a home. “Veterans United stands with their customers every step of the way,” Ham wrote.

In addition to hiring veterans, Veterans United also is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of veterans and service members, Ham wrote. The foundation has provided more than $1 million in scholarships to disabled veterans and surviving spouses and children, and it works closely with organizations such as the Armed Forces YMCA, Homes for Our Troops and TAPS to support the military community.

Overall, the foundation has donated more than $120 million to help others in the community, and Veterans United employees spend thousands of hours on weekends and evenings giving back, retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, former AUSA vice president of NCO and Soldier Programs, wrote in a nomination letter.

“Veterans United is a unique organization that serves as a role model for their business processes, work environment, training programs, charitable support and support of veterans and military families,” Preston wrote.