MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
It is the Marine Corps’ policy to recognize meritorious achievements and superlative performances by awarding meritorious masts, letters of appreciation and accelerated promotions. According to Combat Development Command Order 1650.2D, it is also recommended to periodically single out individual Marines whose performance of duty and standards of proficiency exceed that generally expected of all Marines.
Two remarkable Marines and one just as impressive sailor were awarded as the Marine Corps Installations East 2010 Marine of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Sailor of the Year during the annual MCIEAST breakfast at the Ball Center aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jan. 20.
Cpl. Jesse Parke, representing Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Beufort, Sgt. Avery Washington II, of MCAS Cherry Point and Petty Officer 1st Class Julian Esteban, from MCAS Cherry Point, were recognized for their exceptional performances in a competition against thousands of others in the region.
These motivated, dedicated, modern-day warriors were also awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, in addition to about a dozen of gifts; including fine jewelry, engraved plaques and Ka-Bars and statuettes, most presented by civilian business leaders in the community.
John Reed, executive director of Mainstream Productions and host of the annual breakfast and awards ceremony, asked the Marines to consider making their service in the military into a career.
“All services need people like you,” said Reed. “Someday, 10, 15 or 20 years down the road when you finally get out of the service, it’s not the medal that they will remember; it’s the respect, the admiration, the feeling of self worth and knowing that you did a great job.”
Maj. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commanding general of MCIEAST, and Sgt. Maj. Robert VanOostrom, sergeant major of MCIEAST, presented the medals to the Marines; however, Esteban was not able to attend the ceremony due to his selection process for picking up the rank of chief petty officer.
“That honor that you have lavished upon the naval services here is reflected back upon you sevenfold,” said Jensen. “We are absolutely mindful every day that when we come to work we live surrounded by the greatest community in the United States, in the most military friendly state. This is as good as it gets.”
Following the ceremony, Washington found it hard to come up with words to describe his excitement.
“It’s a good feeling, I don’t know how to describe it,” said Washington. “I remember being in (military occupational specialty) school and wondering what this would be like. My first year in the Marine Corps I was in a non-deployable unit, and I was kind of disappointed, thinking ‘this is not what I signed up for.’ But I made the most of it and it teaches you what you can do when you go all-out. It teaches that you can achieve something no matter where you’re at. I really appreciate the opportunity and I’ve learned a lot in the process.”
In Esteban’s stead, his staff noncommissioned officer, Master Sgt. Scott Thome, spoke a few words about his work ethic and character.
“One of his great characteristics is that he is a great leader,” said Thome. “He looks for leadership challenges and as his (staff NCOIC), he has constantly come to me and asked ‘what can I do to make things better’ or he bring me ideas to make things better for the sailors and Marines that work under him. He won this for a reason and he shows it at work every day.”
Parke, who was recently promoted to the rank of corporal, said that becoming the Marine of the Year for MCIEAST was something he had never expected.
“Two years ago, I was going through recruit training and I saw one of these same awards sitting on my senior drill instructors’ desk,” said Parke. “It was just something I never thought would be possible and I think that says a lot about the caliber of Marines we have today. One of the best feelings is the motivation that comes with it. It was (my drill instructors) giving me knowledge, physical training and facts about uniforms, and even if I didn’t like it, it was something I had to do. Without knowing, I became a better Marine and a better person. (To win this award) shows they really do notice hard work and it’s great to see that first hand.”