The Defense Department's Spirit of Hope Award was awarded to six people and a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military families during a Pentagon ceremony last week.
The award is presented annually to recipients who epitomize the values of comedian Bob Hope: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication. Recipients are nominated and selected by each of the military services.
Hope entertained troops from World War II through Operation Desert Shield.
The awardees are also expected to have contributed time, talent and resources that benefit service members and their families.
Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Ashish S. Vazirani said Hope was always dedicated to supporting the nation's military. He often insisted on traveling to the front lines, even occasionally placing himself in harm's way.
Hope wanted to put on a variety show of comedy, singing and dancing to those far from the comforts of home, always bringing the same level of energy and enthusiasm to every performance, Vazirani said.
His shows provided a moment of levity in an otherwise dark and challenging time. These performances served as a distraction from the misery of war, bringing service members a pleasant reminder of home while they were deployed in distant lands and seas, Vazirani said.
Hope was also a frequent visitor of wounded service members, as well as veterans in hospitals, he said. "These values of Bob Hope in service to the warfighter are also embodied by the recipients we are paying tribute to today."
Office of the Secretary of Defense recipient: Walter E. Penk, a clinical and research psychologist, now retired after 60 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Penk improved the treatment of wounded and injured veterans and changed the nation's outlook about the critical role of post-service employment as service members transition into civilian life.
Air Force recipient: Senior Master Sgt. Christina S. Schwarztrauber, first sergeant with the 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, for outstanding leadership and care. Schwarztrauber's efforts were vital to the health, welfare, and success of military and civilian personnel and directly impacted 24,000 personnel.
Army recipient: Brenda L. Seubert, administrative officer with the 838th Transportation Battalion, Kaiserslautern, Germany, for contributing an extraordinary amount of time in the service of the Kaiserslautern military community. Seubert by volunteering in after-school programs for the last 25 years and assisting Ukrainian refugees living in Poland during her Thanksgiving break in November 2022.
Coast Guard recipient: Leroy "Roy" Vander Putten, a trustee emeritus for the Coast Guard Foundation, for founding and funding Enlisted Education Grants and Spouse Education Grants. Putten and his wife funded a Christmas party for Station Lake Worth Inlet, Florida, providing gifts for the children of the unit.
Marine Corps recipient: Capt. Jergen D. Campbell with the Marine Aircraft Group 12 at Marine Corps Air Station lwakuni, Japan, for efforts in suicide prevention, morale-building events, resiliency outreach events and speaking engagements. Campbell's efforts that benefited the mental and physical well-being of service members, veterans and their families.
Navy recipient: Anthony Allen Teravainen, on behalf of Support the Enlisted Project (STEP), San Diego, for supporting the Enlisted Project. Teravainen also devoting time to the social, welfare and morale needs of junior, active-duty, enlisted service members, as well as recently separated enlisted veterans and their families in Southern California and Washington state.
Space Force recipient: Maj. Nathaniel J. Lee, chief of training requirements, Headquarters Space Training and Readiness Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for commitment to Gold Star families through work with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Lee served as a group leader and legacy mentor at children's camps, leading 23 military mentors and over 100 survivors in bonding, grief work, and art therapy activities.