Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW) Maria Decena-Taylor, Navy winner of the 2012 Military Times Service Member of the Year Award, mentors sailors in Portsmouth, Va. (Colin Kelly / Staff)
- Filed Under
Nominate a Service Member of the Year
Who's eligible: Active-duty or reservists through August 2013.
Achievement criteria: Positive actions performed on and off duty during 2012.
The prize: A trip to Washington, D.C., for two, culminating in an award ceremony on Capitol Hill. The winner is also featured in Navy Times.
Who can nominate: Fellow service members, commanders, parents and spouses
How to nominate: militarytimes.com/smoy
Deadline: April 28
This is an official callout: We're looking for outstanding sailors and Coast Guardsmen who serve as an inspiration both on and off duty.
These are service members who are “unsung heroes” — those who would never ask or seek special recognition, but sure deserve it.
Do you know someone like that? Then take a little bit of time and nominate him or her as Military Times' 2013 Sailor or Coast Guardsman of the Year.
Every year since 2001, we've been honoring service members for their contributions to their peers and their communities. For those who are selected, it is one of the most memorable moments of their careers. Just ask Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW) Maria Decena-Taylor, our 2012 Sailor of the Year.
“It's crazy!” said Decena-Taylor, who won as a first class and has since pinned on her chief anchors. “I'd walk through the hospital and people would be like, ‘I know you! You were in the Navy Times.' … A couple people asked for my autograph.”
Decena-Taylor was honored for her mentorship of junior sailors while working at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., as well as her volunteerism outside of work, at events such as air shows and suicide prevention walks. She's still at Portsmouth and still inspiring sailors as the leading chief petty officer of the critical care unit.
The Sailor of the Year Award is a “great opportunity for all paygrades,” Decena-Taylor said.
“There are a lot of sailors out there who go the extra mile and aren't doing it because they want any type of award,” she said. “They're doing it because it's the right thing. It's an awesome opportunity to show those unsung heroes that — although at times they may feel like their efforts go unnoticed— they are noticed and appreciated by many.”
Nicole Emmons' drive to reach her career goals and dedication to her community earned her the 2011 Coast Guardsman of the Year award. Later, she says, the award paid her back.
Then a marine science technician second class, Emmons had applied for Officer Candidate School twice before she was recognized by Navy Times for building a homeland security unit from the ground up at her Louisiana station, mentoring younger Coasties and volunteering for a variety of charitable causes.
She didn't get into OCS either time. The third try came shortly after she'd won the award.
“Having that on your [application] package, I know it helped me,” Emmons said. “It greatly helped — it looks great on any résumé.”
She was off to New London, Conn., for four months of officer training. She graduated in December of last year and took a new position learning inspection duties at Coast Guard Sector Boston. By August, she hopes to be a qualified port state control examiner — “I've always wanted to do this,” she said.
Despite the expanded duties she performs as a newly minted ensign and the time spent earning her qualification, she's already involved in her new community, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and becoming her command's community liaison.
However, she said none of her new experiences has matched being named Coast Guardsman of the Year.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “To this day, that's the best, most proud, honorable moment I've had in the Coast Guard.”