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2005 Recipients of the VIP Awards

2005 VIP Award Recipients

The National Military Family Association Announces 2005 Very Important Patriot Award Recipients

The Very Important Patriot Award recognizes exceptional volunteers whose outstanding service contributes to improving the quality of life in their military and/or neighboring communities. Due to the challenges of the current pace of military operations, volunteers are playing an ever-increasing role in providing support and stability in their communities. NMFA is thankful for those who have been serving their communities for years and welcomes new volunteers who are answering the call to serve on the home front.

The 2005 VIP Winners; Michele Canchola, Cpl Jeffrey Caraway, Robert Davison, Sgt Clinton Firstbrook, and Chris Zaehringer; are service members and family members from the Air Force, Army National Guard, and Marine Corps. 
Kellogg Company is one of the sponsors of the VIP Program along with, Coca Cola, The Clorox Company, H.J. Heinz Company, and Tyson Foods. Winners of the VIP Award each receive $1,000 and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. to be honored at an evening event with senior military leaders and VIP Program sponsors. Last year’s event featured Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray as keynote speaker. Additionally, the VIP Program recognizes five Award of Honor recipients, who each receive $500, and five Award of Merit recipients, who each receive $250.

About the Winners:

Michele Canchola—Michele Canchola's enthusiastic leadership sparked a movement of volunteers that ignited into one collective Family Readiness Group (FRG) throughout the battalion's four units. She coordinated a website, e-mail network and a professional newsletter conveying critical readiness information. For the past two years, Michele secured enough donations and resources to invite hundreds of Guard retirees and their families to unit holiday meals. When our Nation went to war in Iraq, she created a training model for military and FRG leaders to strengthen or establish family readiness in units so families had the support they needed.

Cpl Jeffrey Caraway— Corporal Caraway is an outstanding Marine, a dedicated volunteer, and a leader among his peers. At the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Horse Back Riding Program, Cpl Caraway assists children and adults with disabilities to participate in the challenging sport of horse-back riding. He teaches skating skills and serves as a guard at the Wakefield Skate Park. Cpl Caraways is also committed to the Young Marines program, a program for boys and girls ages 8-18 which focuses on character building through a combination of self- discipline, teamwork and leadership. The number of hours he devotes to volunteerism is significant, more than 200 last year, but it is his character, attitude, and the impact of his work that makes him stand out.

Robert Davison—Robert Davison’s contributions to the Scott AFB community have been unparalleled. He serves the community as the Key Spouse for the 375th Medical Support Squadron (MDSS), Chapter President of Operation Home Front, a member of Soldier's Angel’s, and as an officer of the 375th Medical Group (MDG) Booster. Through his own non-profit charity, The Airmen's Food Pantry, he obtained donations to assemble backpacks with toiletries, blankets and clothes for families and servicemembers passing through Scott AFB. With more than 900 volunteer hours this year, he impacted not only the base Air Force Community but all services.

Sgt Clinton Firstbrook—Sergeant Firstbrook has been a volunteer for as long as he has been a Marine.  While stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, he donated hundreds of hours of his time to work with orphanages, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, the Cub and Boy Scouts, and Marine Corps Community Service. Upon his return to the states, he continued to volunteer; however, he was surprised that a lot of Marines did not realize how many volunteer opportunities were available. To remedy this, he started writing stories for the base paper every time he volunteered. His goal was to help his fellow Marines realize what a difference they could make by volunteering in their local community.

Chris Zaehringer—Chris Zaehringer is an exemplary volunteer and member of the Mountain Home AFB Youth Programs team. Chris has volunteered more than 1,500 hours as a teen Jr Staff Member since June 2001. A teen leader, Chris has held leadership positions as President/Vice President of Keystone and TRAIL (Training Responsible Adolescents in Leadership), an outdoor adventure based program for teens/pre-teens and Vice President of BRATTZ (Military Brats Rejecting Alcohol/Tobacco Tolerance Zero), a state-wide recognized youth coalition which advocates healthy young lifestyles. A Congressional Award recipient, he has earned his Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal, presented in Washington D.C., July 2004. These are but a small sample of the impact Chris has had on literally hundreds of youth since 2001.

Five military volunteers, all recipients of the Very Important Patriot Award, are featured on a special edition Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal box available only in commissaries. The special edition box started shipping to commissaries worldwide in May and will be on shelves through the summer.

The recipients of the 2005 Very Important Patriot Award of Honor are:
• Michelle McGimsey, USMCR Family Member
• PO1 Jeffrey Kaczinski, USNR
• MAJ Mark Weber, ANG
• Frankie Mayo, USA Family Member
• Tricia Marino, USN Family Member
The recipients of the Award of Honor will receive a check in the amount of $500.

The recipients of the 2005 Very Important Patriot Award of Merit are:
• Linda Engelman, ANG Family Member
• LCDR Larry Alsop, USNR (Ret)
• Erin Morotti, USCG Family Member
• Nancy Feather, USAF Family Member
• Maryanne Cohen, USMCR Family Member
The Award of Merit winners will each receive a check for $250.

About NMFA

The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is the only national nonprofit organization that focuses solely on the families of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NMFA supports military spouses, children, survivors, retirees and parents of servicemembers through efforts designed to enhance the opportunities and resources available to them before they need them. Through outreach efforts, education campaigns, and community and civic involvement, NMFA works to promote and protect the interests of military families and relies on support from the community to carry out its mission. Visit for more information.