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Rotary Club recognizes local Marines, Sailor

By Lance Cpl. Micah B. Snead | | June 4, 2003

Three military service members from the Tri-Command area were recognized for outstanding leadership, professional excellence and community service by The Rotary Club of Beaufort, June 4, during the club?s weekly meeting in downtown Beaufort.

Taking top honors as Military Person of the Year was Fightertown?s own, Gunnery Sgt.
John C. Spencer, Jr., audit chief, Marine Corps Non Appropriated Fund Audit Service, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. Also recognized during the luncheon were Sgt. Maria F. Gonzales, recruit finance account clerk, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Chief Hospital Corpsman Brandon W. Viator, Naval Hospital.

Spencer?s professionalism as a Marine was a prerequisite for his nomination as top military person, according to Wayne Cousar, president, Rotary Club of Beaufort.

?Gunnery Sgt. Spencer was an easy choice for our Military Affairs Committee,? said Wayne Cousar, president, Rotary Club of Beaufort. ?Not only does Spencer stand out as an outstanding Marine, but he dedicates a majority of his free time to bettering our community.?

In addition to excellence at work, Spencer was recognized for volunteering as an assistant football coach at Whale Branch Middle School. Spencer instructed the players on the fundamentals of football, ran practice sessions and coached during games. He also contributed to the school by organizing team fundraisers, planning award ceremonies and providing transportation for children.

?One of the main objectives of our program is to highlight the positive participation of our military residents in the life of our community,? Cousar said. ?Spencer?s influence on the lives of our youth is only matched by his dedication to risking his life on the behalf of others.?

Spencer also volunteers with the Beaufort Water Search and Rescue. He works alongside local law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel to help people in distress on the waterways of Beaufort County. Last year, Spencer assisted in more than 25 rescue missions.

During one mission, on June 8, 2002, Spencer dove into water, with near zero visibility to rescue a driver of an overturned boat.

?I am a Marine 24 hours a day, and that naturally leads me to work to better my community,? Spencer said. ?The recognition is greatly appreciated but not something you dwell on.?

Gonzales was awarded Military Person of the Year award from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Eastern Recruiting Region at Parris Island. In addition to being meritoriously promoted to sergeant in February 2002, Gonzales was selected as Headquarters and Service Battalion Noncommissioned Officer of the Year in October.

Viator was selected for Military Person of the Year from the hospital after receiving the Senior Enlisted Military Leadership Award in October, volunteering at Beaufort High School and coaching and mentoring handicapped children in the Special Olympics.

?We are always pleased to have these distinguished guests with us,? Cousar said.  ?Recognizing and welcoming this important part of our community is another objective of this award.?