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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced its Department of Defense recipients for the 2014 Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award, with a Sailor from Naval District Washington (NDW) representing the Navy.

Chief Mass Communication Specialist Terry Spain, NDW command climate specialist (CCS), formerly known as equal opportunity adviser, and winners from other services will be recognized for their leadership roles during an awards luncheon in Las Vegas scheduled for July 22.

Beyond serving his fellow Sailors as the command climate specialist, Spain is also an active volunteer in his community in Charles County, Maryland, where he is a weekly mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a member of the local NAACP chapter, and a volunteer with the American Red Cross.

Before serving his country and community, Spain said his original goal was to play college basketball—until a ruptured appendix during his senior year of high school sidelined him for months and almost took his life.

“That was a serious wake up call for me,” he said.”That made me the person I am today and humbled me so much, because I thought nothing could happen—17 with everything going for me—and that one day changed everything for me.”

So many friends and family members came to see him in the hospital that nurses had to turn some away when it got too full, he recalled. “That showed me that people care,” he added, and since then, he has been giving back.

Earning the NAACP award has special significance, Spain said, because he gets to follow in the footsteps of his father, Sam Spain, who won the same award in 1992 as a Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant.

“When I told him that I was selected for it, I think he was more excited than I was,” Spain said of his father, whom he called an ideal role model.

As a mentor and big brother, Spain said he has seen firsthand the power and importance of community in developing kids who may not be fortunate enough to have a father or either parent involved in their lives.

“If youth today don’t see or can’t mimic someone that’s positive, then we’re going to be lost,” Spain said. “My goal is to make sure I do my part. At the end of the day, the kids are the ones who really matter, and they really, genuinely appreciate us coming out.”

Being recognized for such a prestigious award feels great, he added, but he takes more from seeing youth he interacts with become successful adults.

After 17 years in the Navy, Spain said he is keeping his options open as retirement draws closer. Whether adding a few more years to the Navy, becoming a teacher, or becoming more of a community leader with the NAACP, Spain plans to keep giving back—something he hopes others will do as well.

“I would just encourage people to volunteer, and do it not for the accolades you may achieve, but just because it will make you a better person,” he said.

The Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award, presented annually to service members and DOD civilians from each branch of the military, is named for the former civil rights activist and leader of the NAACP who led many of the successful civil rights campaigns in America during the 1960s.

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