The VIP Program, administered by the National Military Family Association, recognizes exceptional volunteers worldwide who are chosen for their outstanding service which contributes to improving the quality of life in their military and neighboring communities. Active duty, guard, reserve, and retired members of the seven uniformed services and their family members and survivors are eligible to receive the award.
SGT Jernigan's numerous accomplishments have "positively affected every level of authority from United States Army Hawaii to the communities of Wahiawa and Ewa Beach," according to Captain Randall Thrash, Military Police Company Commander.
Within a month of arriving at Schofield Barracks, she was garnering awards as Mentor of the Month for her work with students at Leilehua High School. She soon took it upon herself to know all the surrounding community schools and to offer her volunteer/mentor time to troubled teens. The Board of Education recognized her volunteer work in the "No Hope in Dope" program. As a "Big Sister," she is supporting two teenagers with prior drug abuse problems who have been drug free since working with SGT Jernigan. A member of Mothers Against Driving Drunk (MADD) for the past three years, she has been personally responsible for the creation of dozens of driving contracts between parents and teens.
Jernigan was instrumental in the planning and execution of the Warriors Against Drugs program which gave focus to the activities of 56 teenagers throughout the summer of 1999 by keeping them away from alcohol and drug use. Sponsored events included all-night scavenger hunts, tree-day team sporting events, bowling tournaments, sleepovers, home visits and many nights simply providing opportunities to listen to teen concerns.
In her military capacity, SGT Jernigan is assigned to the Schofield Barracks Military Working Dog Section. She and her Narcotics Dog, Marko, have seized over $240,000 (street value) of contraband and drug paraphernalia through gate inspections, health and welfare inspections, patrol duty, gulch sweeps, and by being the on-call narcotics team during nights and weekends
SGT Jernigan's volunteer efforts have had a major impact on the lives of the soldiers and families of Schofield Barracks and the members of her surrounding communities
Other recipients of the Very Important Patriot Awards are:
- Ms. Cindy Whitney of Camp Keyes, Maine (spouse, Maine Air National Guard)
- Ms. DaLisa Stearns of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (spouse, USN)
- MSgt Mark C. Long of Randolph AFB, Texas (USAF)
- Ms. Karen Comish of Schweinfurt, Germany (spouse, ARMY)
Each of the five VIP recipients and a companion is flown to Washington, DC. During their stay in the Nation's Capital they receive a --> ,000 cash award, meet with senior leaders of their individual services, visit with their elected officials on Capitol Hill, attend the NMFA Annual Meeting and Luncheon, and meet the generous sponsors of the VIP Program.
The Very Important Patriot program also recognizes five Award of Honor and five Award of Merit recipients for their outstanding volunteer work
The recipients of the Very Important Patriot Award of Honor and $250 include:
- Ms. Victoria Aboagye of ISC Portsmouth, Virginia (spouse, USCGR)
- TSgt Kimberly R. VanGorder of Keesler AFB, Mississippi (USAF)
- MSgt Buck Zehringer of Randolph AFB, Texas (USAF, retired)
- Ms. Janet E. Hammes of Camp Pendleton, California (spouse, USMC)
- SSgt Valorie J. Whitehill of RAF Mildenhall, England (USAF)
The recipients of the Very Important Patriot Award of Merit and --> 00 are
- HMCM Eugene Crabtree of Hampton Roads, Virginia (USN, retired)
- Lt Col William R. Ritchie, III of MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (USMC)
- Ms. Mary Frances (Frances) Merritt of Kirtland AFB, New Mexico (spouse, USAF, retired)
- SSgt Samuel M. Jones of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (USAF)
- Ms. Donna DiRoma of Aviano Air Base, Italy (spouse, USAF)
Coca-Cola Foods conceived the VIP Program in 1995 to promote wider recognition of the countless uniformed service family members who volunteer time and talent in service to others. Over the years the list of sponsors has grown and now includes The Minute Maid Company (formerly Coca-Cola Foods), the Kellogg Company, The Clorox Company, Keebler Company, H.J. Heinz Company, and Tyson Foods. VIP sponsors contribute the funds for travel, expense allowances, and cash awards.
VIP sponsor companies, which are suppliers to the commissaries, and NMFA have a mutual interest in ensuring the preservation of the commissary benefit and in saluting volunteers who enhance the quality of life in their communities. Preserving the value of the commissary benefit as a savings for uniformed service families and a contribution to their quality of life has been a long-standing NMFA goal. NMFA staff continues to work closely with the management of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).
NMFA particularly applauds DeCA's current Customer Appreciation Program which encourages activities such as Very Important Patriot recognition. The Association is grateful to the sponsors for their generous support and is proud to be a part of this exciting program.
The National Military Family Association is a non-profit, predominately volunteer organization with membership from the seven Uniformed Services, active duty, retired, reserve component and their family members and survivors. NMFA is the only national organization whose sole focus is the military family and whose mission is to serve those families through education, information, and advocacy.
Visit the association's web site for further information about the VIP Program and the National Military Family Association.