Last night, I attended the annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. This year’s recipients were Randy Johnson, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Diamondbacks and Mariners; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, and Navy Logistics Specialist Chief Jairo N. Guity. The Foundation also honored Gunnery Sargeant Joshua MacMillan of the US Marine Corps with the Jerry Coleman Award and the USS America’s JEA chapter and the Great Lakes Chapter of CSADD with the Peer-to-Peer Award. Among the VIP guests at this year’s ceremony was John Dalton, Navy Secretary under President Clinton, and Thomas Modly, Under Secretary of the Navy.
The Act of Valor Award honors Bob Feller, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1956. Feller was the first American professional athlete to enlist in the military after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Feller threw no-hitters in 3 different years, including the only no-hitter ever thrown on Opening Day. “Rapid Robert” Feller was also called “The Heater from Van Meter” after his hometown of Van Meter, Iowa because he threw some of the fastest fastballs in baseball history. He pitched 3,287 innings, threw 44 shutouts, and rang up 2,581 strike outs in his career, which was interrupted by serving 3 years as a gun captain on the U.S.S. Alabama in the Navy during World War II.
The Act of Valor Award is given out to three people who share the characteristics of Bob Feller: an active MLB player, a member of the Navy, and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Act of Valor Foundation also gives out the Jerry Coleman Award, named after the late legendary San Diego Padres broadcaster and former Yankees 2nd baseman Jerry Coleman. Coleman served as a colonel in the Marines during WWII and Korea, the only MLB player ever to serve in both wars. He is also a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a Ford Frick winner. The Jerry Coleman Award honors a US Marine Non-commissioned Officer who has shown unyielding support for the Marines and the United States of America.
The Foundation also awarded the Peer-to-Peer Award. Both honorees are groups of sailors ages 18-25 who demonstrate honor, courage, and commitment. They also encourage peer-to-peer mentoring and to reduce personal destructive decision making. The award was given to teams of sailors who participate in the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions or Junior Enlisted Association.
Randy Johnson, one of the most iconic pitchers of the 1990s, was the Hall of Fame player awarded with the Act of Valor Award. Johnson is an
active participant with the United Service Organization (USO) and has gone on countless trips to visit troops abroad for the past ten years. Johnson was honored to receive this award, especially due to its’ namesake, Hall of Fame pitcher and Navy Chief Petty Officer Bob Feller.
“I played 26 years of professional baseball, so I know the time and demand it takes to be a baseball player,” Johnson said. “For him to be a Hall of Fame baseball player and still serve our country, it says a lot about the person.”
Ian Kennedy currently is a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. Kennedy was honored with the Act of Valor Award for giving back to military families in the Kansas City area. He hosts military families at Royals games and is involved with Folds of Honor, Honor Flight Kansas City, and the USO. Kennedy, like Johnson, is very humbled by winning the Act of Valor Award.
“It’s humbling just to be recognized for the work that we do,” Kennedy told me. “To use baseball as an outlet to show our gratitude for our service men and women, it means a lot.”
Logistics Specialist Chief Jairo N. Guity was the member of the Navy honored with the award. A member of the Blue Angels, LSC Guity has accumulated many awards for his volunteer work. He has accumulated over 1,300 volunteer hours as a member of the Navy and volunteers with multiple organizations.
Gunnery Sergeant Joshua MacMillan of the United States Marine Corps was awarded the Jerry Coleman Award. Like Logistics Specialist Chief Guity, GySgt MacMillan is a very active in his community and is an active volunteer. A veteran of three deployments, MacMillan has shown countless dedication to his country and to the Marine Corps.
The other MLB nominees for the Award this year were Minnesota Twins OF Byron Buxton, Milwaukee Brewers P Josh Hader, New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, Houston Astros OF Josh Reddick, Atlanta Braves P Will Smith, San Diego Padres P Craig Stammen, and Boston Red Sox P Rick Porcello.
As we recently celebrates Veterans Day, I dedicate this post to the service men and women who risked their lives and made personal sacrifices for the safety and security of our nation. Thank you for your generosity, service, and selflessness to the United States. Learn more about the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award at http://www.actofvaloraward.org/