“Today is about more than just an award. It’s an opportunity to make a real connection and recognize these young men and women who help make Hampton Roads America’s Navy Town!” said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber during his opening remarks for the 2019 Military Citizen of the Year Award Luncheon.
“We have an opportunity to pay tribute and homage to some of the most giving, caring, and selfless men and women in our community,” continued Stephens. “Those men and women in uniform who, in addition to serving our great nation, have donated hours of their valuable time giving back to their community.” Stephens also highlighted the start of Fleet Week 2019 in Hampton Roads from October 11 to 19, as well as the upcoming 244th Birthday Celebration of the U.S. Navy on Sunday, October 13.
More than 200 active duty personnel and business professionals attended the Hampton Roads Chamber’s 2019 Military Citizen of the Year Luncheon on Friday, October 11 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. Since 1955, this annual event honors enlisted military individuals who demonstrate selfless service, extraordinary leadership and provide personal and public contributions that positively affect the Hampton Roads community.
This year, the Samuel T. Northern Military Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Petty Officer First Class, Cynthia Cordero. “Thank you to the Chamber for the work you’re doing. I think volunteering should be a way of life,” Cordero said during her acceptance speech. Petty Officer Cordero has been volunteering in the community for two and a half years with the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD) as well as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“Two and a half years ago I found out I had a disability,” Cordero told the audience. “Interacting with children who have disabilities and seeing their light shine through made me feel like any battle or challenge I go through is insignificant,” said Cordero. She was recognized for a coloring book she created titled, Don’t Let a Disability, Disable You, the first in a four-part series of books that showcase children with disabilities accomplishing their future goals and seeing themselves in a positive light. “I wanted to show everyone they’re represented in a special way. This is just an award but the real project is still coming.”
“I love the military and I sincerely appreciate your devotion to duty and your devotion to keeping the peace in this fragile world,” said John Rowe, Mayor of Portsmouth. Rowe’s keynote address focused on the importance of the military to the Commonwealth and Hampton Roads. Rowe described the military’s relationship with the Commonwealth and Hampton Roads as historic, enduring, and unmatched.
“We have a rich history in the Commonwealth as it relates to the military,” said Rowe. He described Virginia as a preeminent state, recognizing the large military concentration in Hampton Roads. Rowe said they are an integral part of Virginia’s history and an economic driver of the region, representing 40% of the economy with more than 80,000 active duty service men and women in Hampton Roads alone.
Rowe continued, “The military in Hampton Roads is our next-door neighbor, they are our scout leaders, little league coaches, Sunday school teachers, and volunteers. They are the very fabric of our community.” He addressed the military members present directly, “You are what make Hampton Roads a great place to live. The impact you have on our community is huge.” He ended with, “If I had my way today, each of you would be the military citizen of the year for Hampton Roads.”
Petty Officer Cordero was among 18 nominees for the Samuel T. Northern award, which honors an individual whose personal and public volunteer contributions have had the most positive effect on the Hampton Roads community. Samuel T. Northern was a local businessman who devoted most of his life to strengthening the bonds between the military and citizens of Hampton Roads.
Each year, commands throughout Hampton Roads are asked to nominate individuals for this honor. A group of business and military leaders then selects the winner based upon their active and sustained participation in activities that benefit the community.
The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to host this event annually to pay tribute to the community’s selfless service members and show our appreciation for the military presence in Hampton Roads.
Congratulations to all who were honored at the 2019 Military Citizen of the Year Luncheon:
Petty Officer First Class Bryan Abeyta
Petty Officer First Class Justin Barnett
Petty Officer Third Class Hunter Blalock
Petty Officer First Class Crystal Booth
Petty Officer First Class Shana Clark
Petty Officer First Class Cynthia Cordero
Petty Officer First Class Tonia Devine
Petty Officer Second Class Kristian Gonzalez-Arenado
Petty Officer Second Class Joseph Gutierrez
Petty Officer First Class Brittany Herb
Petty Officer Second Class Calvin Jackson
Petty Officer First Class Robert James
Petty Officer Second Class Kristen Johnson
Senior Airman Carlton Lopez
Petty Officer First Class Eric Mattone
Petty Officer First Class Samantha Metott
Sergeant Konner Otto
Petty Officer Second Class Jessica Stevenson
Thank you to our sponsors: USAA (Military Platinum Partner); GEICO (Military Legacy Ally Partner); ADS (Military Gold Partner); Bon Secours (Military Bronze Partner); The City of Norfolk (City Sponsor); BrightView (Gold Sponsor); and JPM Financial Services (Silver Sponsor).