Command Master Chief (EW/AW) Bruce Forester is the epitome of the citizen sailor. The aircrewman has balanced his 19-year naval career, including myriad deployments and activations, with decades of service to the Virginia Beach Fire Department.
Forester transitioned to the medical community and completed three deployments with Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment Arabian Peninsula in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; he tallied 96 high-risk, direct on-target missions and received three Air Medals. He did four combat tours with Naval Special Warfare's Operational Support Team 2, and now serves as the top enlisted sailor for 2nd Navy Expeditionary Logistics Regiment in Williamsburg, Va.
Forester has been a fixture as a long-standing volunteer with the Virginia Beach rescue squad. He's also volunteered with the Fisher House, Chesapeake's 4-H Hippology Study Group, and as a CPR instructor. As a volunteer with a FEMA task force, he has delivered aid in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks and several hurricanes. He was a committee member for Hampton Roads Naval Museum's National Museum of the Surface Navy, has led his Chief Petty Officer Association for multiple years, and helped the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office establish the "Project Life Saver" community program, which monitors elderly citizens who suffer from debilitating illnesses, such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
Notable quote from her nomination: "His commitment and dedication is unmatched, and reflects upon his lifetime actions not only to his Sailors and their families for which he serves, but, to the community for which he lives."
While a search-and-rescue instructor with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 3 in 2014, Personnel Specialist 2nd Class (NAC/AW/EXW) Ruben Loya founded the unit's first Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions program and recruited members for a variety of community outreach programs. One of the most successful was the re-launch of the unit's blood drive, which Loya expanded to cover multiple commands, often recounting the very personal reason for his efforts: His daughter, a cancer survivor, needed blood on two occasions during her treatment only to find that none was available.
Out of uniform, Loya raised $1,000 and drew local media attention by walking about 115 miles while carrying an 80-pound cross - the second year he'd performed such a feat in the name of raising awareness for childhood cancer prevention under the Carry Their Cross banner. He plans another trek later this year.
Loya is also the force behind CTC Superhero, which sends volunteers in masks and capes to brighten the mood of the people he calls "the real superheroes" - young cancer patients - at hospitals and fundraising events. Loya himself regularly dons a $600 Spider-Man costume.
Notable quote from his nomination: "'Inspiration' is but a small word for what this man has brought to the year 2014."