MOAA Recognizes 6 Award Recipients for Their Outstanding Support of the Military Community

MOAA Recognizes 6 Award Recipients for Their Outstanding Support of the Military Community

MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), presents an award to Rep. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, for her strong leadership in Congress. (Photo by Sean Shanahan)

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) hosted a ceremony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night to present the association's highest awards to six individuals or organizations that have demonstrated support for uniformed service.

MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), introduced the 2018 recipients of the Colonel Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award, MOAA Distinguished Service Award, and Colonel Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award.

“The awards we present this evening recognize the highest caliber of leadership, dedication, and love of country,” Atkins said. “They recognize the desire for a strong national defense, and - most importantly - steadfast support for the uniformed men and women who make that strong defense a reality.”

2018 Colonel Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award

The 2018 Colonel Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award was presented to U.S. Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). 

McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and MOAA Life Member who serves on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees and chairs the subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. McSally graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, then flew and commanded combat missions. MOAA recognized McSally for introducing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which supports veterans who suffer the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. She is also a proponent of veteran employment and supports repeal of the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, also known as the widows tax.

“I'm really honored and humbled by this award,” McSally said. She noted she is the only female officer in the House of Representatives. “I do consider this my next assignment in civilian clothes,” she said. McSally encouraged the audience to take action and continue serving. “When I actually raised my right hand to take my oath of office a few years ago, to become a member of congress, it was the same, exact oath of office we took as officers.”

Sinema, a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, also received the Marix award for her support to veterans and their families. She supported the Fairness for Rural Veterans Act and introduced legislation to ensure members of the armed forces are paid if the government shuts down.

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Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), left, and Tim Barone, president and CEO of Arizona-based Vantage Mobility International, were presented with awards from MOAA for their continued support of servicemembers and veterans. (Photo by Sean Shanahan)

“The men in my family who served taught me that serving in the military is not just about working for your country in the short term, it's about a lifetime commitment to service,” Sinema said. “So to be recognized here tonight by all of you who dedicated your lives to serving means so incredibly much to me.”

The Marix Award is named for the retired Marine Corps colonel who founded MOAA in 1929. It is presented annually to members of Congress who distinguish themselves in protecting the rights and interests of uniformed servicemembers, their families, and their survivors.

2018 MOAA Distinguished Service Award

Arizona-based Vantage Mobility International and Seattle's Starbucks Coffee Co received MOAA's Distinguished Service Award.

Maj. Matt Kress, USMC (Ret), senior manager of veterans and military affairs at Starbucks Coffee Co., accepted the award on behalf of the company. 

“When Starbucks committed in 2013 to hiring 10,000 veterans and spouses, it was out of a sense of patriotic duty,” Kress said. “What we quickly realized is that they made us a better company. We realized that the intangible qualities they brought … were improving both our culture and our business model.” The company has developed partnerships with veterans service organizations, such as MOAA, Kress said, and looks forward to continuing to do so. 

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Starbucks received MOAA's Distinguished Service Award for the company's committment to hiring veterans and military spouses. Here members of the Starbucks team accept the award from MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). (Photo by Sean Shanahan) 

Tim Barone, president and CEO of Vantage Mobility International (VMI), accepted the award on behalf of the company, which modifies vans for disabled veterans.

“To be listed with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, Elizabeth Dole, Toby Keith, is quite an honor,” Barone said. “At VMI, our mission is to never forget the challenges faced by our customers.” Meeting those challenges, he continued, is at the heart of VMI.

“The American veterans who have served in the Armed Forces, who have done so much for us to secure our freedom, … giving them back their freedom of mobility is all the thanks the VMI family needs,” he said.

MOAA's Distinguished Service Award has been presented since 1997 to organizations or individuals not in Congress who have greatly aided people who served in the U.S. armed forces. 

2018 Colonel Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award

Samantha Gonzalez, a staffer with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and subcommittee on Health, and Jorge Rueda, a Marine veteran and former staffer with the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, received MOAA's 2018 Colonel Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award. 

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MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), recognizes Samantha Gonzalez, right, for her work with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and subcommittee on Health.(Photo by Sean Shanahan)

“[Gonzalez] advises the committee on matters that include the nation's largest integrated health care system with more than 9 million veteran enrollees,” Atkins said. “Samantha has been extremely active, advancing MOAA's veteran health care goals for streamlining community care, arranging roundtables, meetings, and hearings for MOAA with fellow stakeholders and members of Congress.”

“Thank you so much for this honor,” Gonzalez said.

Rueda served as lead staffer for a number of bills drafted into law, including the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, Atkins said.

“He was a consistent partner, fighting for veterans' issues and provided MOAA with opportunities for commentary and testimony,” he added. 

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Jorge Rueda, a Marine veteran and former staffer with the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has long advocated for troops and veterans. (Photo by Sean Shanahan)

The award "actually belongs to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee," Rueda said as he thanked MOAA. 

The Colonel Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award honors congressional staff members who have made significant contributions to the uniformed services community. The award is named for the retired Air Force officer who led MOAA's Government Relations Department from 1990 until 2001.

More than two dozen legislators or staff members attended the event. Also in attendance were leaders and representatives from The Military Coalition.