2001 Navy Times
Winner
IT2 Min Park

Sacrifice, integrity and courage are the traits that personify Petty Officer 2nd class Min Y. Park. Park boarded the USS Grapple, a firefighting, salvage, and rescue ship, as a non-designated seaman. As a deck sailor on the Grapple's fantail during the recovery of Swissair Flight 111 in September 1998 in the waters off Nova Scotia, she lead her fellow seamen in what her then-commanding officer described as "the onerous and physically challenging mission of remains recovery."

Bagging bodies and body parts was a mission definitely not for the faint-hearted. "She was unbelievable and never complained about her assignment," he added. "She never flinched or hesitated." Despite the obvious difficulties and unpleasantness this task involved, she persevered and encouraged her shipmates. The former commanding officer of the ship adds, "she was very inspiring. She remained consistent and stalwart."

Petty Officer Park was also instrumental in the formation of a study group in which her entire department qualified as surface warfare specialists. Park has put her own education and career advancement on hold in order to support her family. Sacrificing the opportunity for a NROTC scholarship, she has declined the educational opportunity and a sure shot at a commission in order to continue to receive a salary that will allow her to take care of her mother.

The man who was her ship's command master chief at the time of the Swissair recovery says she is "without a doubt, one of the finest sailors I've ever seen." Petty Officer 2nd class Min Park is "an inspiration to her shipmates and to her superiors. "She was unbelievable," he said.