Marine Corps Times recognized Staff Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge as the 2013 Marine of the Year during a ceremony Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. From left, Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; Andrew deGrandpre, Marine Corps Times managing editor; Wooldridge; and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash. (Alan Lessig / Staff)
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Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, congratulates Staff Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge, Marine Corps Times 2013 Marine of the Year, during a ceremony Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alan Lessig / Staff)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the House minority leader, greets Staff Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge, Marine Corps Times 2013 Marine of the Year, during a ceremony Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alan Lessig / Staff)
WASHINGTON — Top military leaders and members of Congress gathered July 18 with friends and family to honor the Military Times 2013 Service Members of the Year on Capitol Hill.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Karen D. Beattie, Marine Staff Sgt. Clifford M. Wooldridge, Navy Cryptologic Technician Interpretive 1st Class Joshua E. Beemer, Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Chase Severns and Air Force Master Sgt. William G. Janczewski II received their awards for their service as everyday heroes.
The winners were nominated for the awards by their peers, who sent in glowing submissions, enumerating their fellow service members’ accomplishments both within the military and in their communities.
“I’m very glad I’m not competing with these folks,” keynote speaker Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said.
Beattie is an electronic systems missile maintenance technician with the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Okla., but when she isn’t working, she’s volunteering to raise awareness for Gold Star families on her post.
On the day of the ceremony, she was touring the Rayburn House Office Building when a display of gold stars caught her eye. The wall turned out to be a dedication to fallen troops from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
“Sure enough, there’s Cliff,” she said, speaking of fallen Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Beattie, her husband, who was killed in action in Iraq two years ago.
“This is my husband, and he’s in Washington, D.C.! That is so awesome,” she added. “It was a great moment, and I didn’t know it was coming, and that’s probably why it was so perfect.”
Marine honoree Wooldridge earned praise from his comrades as an anti-tank missileman in 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, during a 2010 deployment to Helmand province, Aghanistan, where he took down an enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat. His actions earned him the Navy Cross for heroism.
Ever the quiet professional, Wooldridge said he spent most of the day of the ceremony getting his uniform ready.
“My family’s always excited, always happy. Just Facebook has been blowing up,” he said.
While deployed to Afghanistan, Sailor of the Year Beemer volunteered as the secretary of the Cat in the Hat Language Arts Center, which teaches basic math and English skills to Afghan children.
He said he was particularly excited to hear Greenert deliver the keynote address.
“That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone in my pay grade,” he said. “This award is being presented to us, but this is for all of my sailor brothers and sisters.”
In addition to his assignment as operations petty officer, the training petty officer and the senior coxswain aboard the cutter Haddock in San Diego, Coast Guardsman of the Year Severns found time to build homes with Habitat for Humanity, raise money through charity distance runs and volunteer at a local senior center.
Airman Janczewski, a firefighter with the Air Forceís 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services, led his team to prevent a blaze in Afghanistan from igniting two refueling medevac helicopters as enemy mortar fire rained down.
He said he enjoyed touring Washington, D.C., throughout the week, but he wouldn’t feel any different when he returned home to Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
“Somebody saw something that I don’t see, so it’s very humbling to be here definitely,” he said. “But it’s not something that I’ve done on my own. It’s a team effort.