MILTON, Fla. (NNS) -- A Naval Air Station Whiting Field Sailor received the Margaret Flowers community service award, Feb. 25, at New World Landing in Pensacola, Florida.
The award is presented annually to honor the enlisted Pensacola-area Sailor or Marine whose volunteer service most enriches the community in which they serve.
For the first time in more than a decade, and only the third time in the 34-year history of the award, a member of the NAS Whiting Field team achieved that prestigious distinction.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class David Hernandez's name now joins 33 other Sailors and Marines whose service to their communities exemplifies the spirit of social involvement displayed by Margaret Flowers throughout her career as a civil servant in the Navy. Flowers was on hand for the ceremony.
No one in the room was as surprised as Hernandez when his name was called as the award's recipient -- a status he alluded to in his remarks.
"If you had asked me yesterday if I thought I deserved this prestigious award, I would have said 'no.'" he said. "I feel that there is still so much more that I can do for others and for the surrounding communities ... I promise you I don't plan on stopping any time soon."
Hernandez was chosen from a group of 17 outstanding service members from commands throughout the Pensacola region. In addition to participating in 26 individual community service events and accumulating more than 300 hours of community service, he also served as the command's volunteer coordinator establishing 30 new volunteer partnerships within Santa Rosa County.
"Petty Officer Hernandez's dedication to the community is an inspiration to the command," NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Bahlau said. "He has set the example across Navy Region Southeast through his unwavering commitment to the community and his constant participation in volunteer activities."
The luncheon, hosted by the Navy League, included WEAR TV's Dan Shugart as the master of ceremonies and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward as the Keynote Speaker. Hayward and representatives from the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, Escambia County School Board, and the Santa Rosa County School Board read proclamations recognizing the day as Military Appreciation Day throughout their organizations.
Hayward commented the impressive aspect of military volunteerism is that despite their usually temporary presence in the community, service members continually try to give back. He felt that was something people, especially public servants, could learn from.
"How do we as politicians make our community better?" he said. "First off, it is by watching people like you serve our community. It has truly touched me, being part of a military community and seeing you all give back to the Pensacola area. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Jeff Miller all had representatives at the event to present Hernandez with letters of congratulations.
Miller's letter read in part, "I applaud your hard work and sincere dedication to the betterment of Northwest Florida. Your active involvement in key organizations that support and promote our community have made you a role model for not only county, but also the country."
Hernandez' efforts also helped bring NAS Whiting Field some well-deserved recognition. His efforts in coordinating and tracking more than 6,000 hours of volunteer service involving more than 400 installation team members are largely responsible for NAS Whiting Field receiving the Navy's Environmental Stewardship and Personal Excellence Flagship Awards as well as placing second in Project Good Neighbor and earning an Honorable Mention in the Health, Safety, and Fitness category.
For more news from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, visit www.navy.mil/local/naswf/.