NAACP Awards Military Personnel as Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff Recognizes their Contributions

July 10, 2007

More than a dozen military personnel received distinguished honors during the 32nd annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards dinner this week at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s 98th annual convention, held in Detroit, MI. 

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was the evening’s keynote speaker, highlighting the contributions of minorities in the military as U.S. forces continue to fight terrorism at home and abroad.

The event honored 13 military personnel who have worked to promote and implement equal opportunity positions in the military.

Chertoff received this year’s Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award, given to a U.S. Department of Defense civilian in a policy-making position for their efforts in implementing policies and programs which promote equal opportunity in the military.  Chertoff was noted for his extensive commitment to justice, equal rights and upholding the law.

Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award, for exceptional meritorious service to the government for championing equal opportunity, civil rights, diversity and anti-discrimination policy initiatives.

This year’s recipients of the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award included:  U.S. Army Major General John R. Hawkins, III, recognized for involvement in his local community as a passionate and engaged leader; U.S. Marine Corps Captain Tito M. Jones, noted for representation and recruitment efforts throughout Louisiana and Mississippi and at Historically Black Colleges and Universities; U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Juanita D. Osby, recognized for providing support to minority women and children, military base and community activities; U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant commander John W. Pruitt, III, recognized for serving as a mentor and role model for minority officers; U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jimmy L. Ryals; Wanda L.P. Smith, of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; California Air National Guard Master Sergeant Christopher D. Underwood; and Minnesota Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Trancey Williams. 

Dr. Elizabeth Allen was this year’s co-recipient of the Jesse Brown Distinguished Leadership Award, honoring an American who works diligently to ensure that all veterans are provided the benefits and services they have earned through honorable service to their country. Allen, a retired professor of psychiatric nursing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was a captain in the army nurse corps and head nurse in Viet Nam (1967-68) and she is the former chairperson of the Michigan Agent Orange Commission.

The second recipient, Robert W. Fletcher, is National Commander, American Ex-POWs Association, a Korean War ex-POW and member of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and National Advisory Committee on POW/MIA issues. 

 The veterans’ affairs department of the United Auto Workers in Detroit (UAW) were awarded with this year’s Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award, honoring a veteran’s organization that has influenced broad service initiatives through community service partnerships. The mission of the UAW’s veterans’ affairs department is to assist in answering the political and social needs and problems of its member veterans and their families. 

To learn more about the NAACP Veterans’ Affairs Division and the NAACP 98th
Annual Convention, visit or

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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