NEW YORK (NNS) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Judith Mae Boyce was presented a Military Leadership Award during the 45th Annual USO Woman of the Year Luncheon hosted by the USO of Metropolitan New York April 26.
Boyce was one of five female service members - one from each branch of the armed forces - who received the award in commemoration of their dedication, achievements, and service to the country.
"I was completely shocked and incredibly honored to be recognized by the USO," said Boyce, who currently is recovering from surgery and recently celebrated her birthday. "I love New York. I grew up nearby, and I was so happy to have an opportunity to visit the city for my birthday rather than spending it in the hospital."
Boyce has been diagnosed with Moyamoya Disease, a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disorder. Though the treatment process has been intense and sometimes very difficult - she has undergone a series of brain surgeries since 2009 - Boyce remains committed to pursuing her passions: culinary arts and the Navy. She also is a strident supporter of adaptive athletics programs for wounded warriors, as well as a fierce competitor in the annual Warrior Games, a Paralympic-style athletic event for ill and injured service members.
The Military Leadership Awards were presented by television journalist and best-selling author Rita Cosby, as well as Oliver Mendell, chairman emeritus of the USO, Rear Adm. Michelle Howard Navy, and Miss USA Rima Fakih.
"Never one to be stopped by obstacles in her path, Seaman Boyce was the first Sailor to express interest in the inaugural Warrior Games - this woman is a die-hard," said Cosby. "Seaman Boyce credits training for the Warrior Games with providing her an outlet to challenge herself and reaffirm that she - and not her disease - controls her destiny."
Since her diagnosis in 2008, Boyce has been enrolled in Navy Safe Harbor, which offers non-medical care to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and their families. The program has provided Boyce personalized and dedicated assistance during all phases of her treatment process and will continue to do so throughout her life.
"Judith is a leader among Navy wounded warriors, and we are incredibly honored to support her," said Capt. Bernie E. Carter, director, Navy Safe Harbor. "She helps shine a spotlight on a less visible segment of our enrollment population - Sailors and Coast Guardsmen who grapple with serious illnesses. In her daily fight with her disease, she personifies courage and strength."
In addition to Boyce, the USO of Metropolitan New York presented Military Leadership Awards to Army Staff Sgt. Tannia Carter, Marine Corps Sgt. Sara Bryant, Air Force Capt. Wendy Sue Buckingham, and Coast Guard Petty Officer Bonnie Lynne Wysocki. Also, Linda Parker Hudson, president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc., and Howard, received 2011 Woman of the Year Distinguished Service Awards.
"The other women recognized during today's ceremony were amazing," said Boyce, who had an opportunity to meet some of them during an intimate dinner hosted by the USO. "It was pretty incredible to listen to each of their stories, and to hear about everything they have overcome and accomplished."
The event also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the USO's founding in 1941. In addition, it helped raised funds for the organization's newest initiative, Operation Enduring Care, a $100 million comprehensive, long-term program to support America's wounded warriors.
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