NEW YORK – On Saturday, May 9, 2015, 12 members of the U.S. Military will receive the 2015 Ellis Island Medals of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations-NECO. The 29th Annual Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony will be held on Ellis Island at 6:30 p.m.
The Ceremony will be followed by a Gala Dinner in the historic Great Hall. Emmy-winning Senior Correspondent Marvin Scott and fellow Emmy-winning Nightly News anchor Tamsen Fadal, both of WPIX-11, will be the Masters of Ceremony.
The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. The Medal recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.
Rear Admiral Becker has served as the Director for Intelligence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2013. Commissioned an Intel officer upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1983, his previous flag assignments include: Director for Intelligence with United States Pacific Command in Hawaii, Vice Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., and Director of Intelligence for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan. Rear Admiral Becker has authored articles on military intelligence and leadership that have been published in Proceedings, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly, Vanguard and Jewish War Veterans magazines. In addition to service in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, his duty focused on Southwest Asia since 9/11includes: Commanding Officer of the US Central Command HQ's Joint Intelligence Center from 2007 to 2009; Director of Intelligence (N2) for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain from 2005 to 2007; Intelligence Watch Officer in the Combined Air Operations Center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in 2003 during early Iraqi Freedom operations; and, N2 for the U.S. Navy's Task Force 50 in the Northern Arabian Sea from 2001 to 2002 during early Enduring Freedom operations.
General Brigadier Linda Singh serves as Assistant Adjutant General for the Army National Guard in Maryland. She is the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. During deployment to Afghanistan, she led a joint coalition of all services and 20 coalition partners flawlessly and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. She now oversees the daily operations of the Maryland Military Department, including all of the branches of the state’s National Guard as well as the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Maryland Defense Force.
Major General Vincent Coglianese was born in New Jersey and commissioned a Second Lieutenant following graduation from Indiana University in 1983. Upon graduation from The Basic School and Motor Transport Officers' Course, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines as the Battalion Motor Transport Officer at Camp Foster, Okinawa. Major General Vincent A. Coglianese served a tour in Afghanistan as the assistant operations officer for Task Force Bowie in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and became the first Marine to be assigned as the J-4 for Special Operations Command, Central Command. He deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and served as the J-4 Directorate for Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command in 2002 and then again with the 24th MEU to Iraq’s Northern Babil Province to support Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004. Upon returning he served as the first Deputy Commander of the newly formed U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. In July of 2013, Major General Coglianese assumed his current position as Commanding General, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton and was promoted to his current rank on August 15, 2014.
Lieutenant Commander Joyce M Elter, U.S. Navy (retired), RN joined the US Navy Nurse Corps in 1989. While stationed in Atsugi Japan, Joyce spent her free time working at the Hospital volunteering her time helping the sick and ill and teaching English to the Japanese Nurses and Doctors. Actively involved in the community, Lieutenant Commander Elter helped organize several programs that support homeless Veterans in the San Diego area. In 2006, she retired from the US Navy and went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Registered Nurse. She also joined the Disabled American Veterans and volunteered numerous hours assisting family members of Veterans who suffer from PTSD and assisting unemployed veterans find jobs. Lieutenant Commander Elter is also involved with the Fleet Reserve Association, which works to preserve and protect benefits and quality of life programs for Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel.
Admiral Mark Ferguson III presently serves as the Commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples Italy. In his role, he directs a multi-national staff responsible for the planning, preparation and execution of military operations for the NATO Alliance. He concurrently serves as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. His area of responsibility covers more than 20 million square nautical miles of ocean, to include the waters bordering the coasts of Europe and Africa as well as the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Born in Newfoundland, Canada, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 and completed nuclear power training prior to entering the fleet. He has served as a surface warfare officer in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, in ships ranging from destroyers to aircraft carriers. His flag assignments include service as the Navy's chief of legislative affairs, chief of naval personnel and vice chief of naval operations. Admiral Ferguson III has been recognized internationally and across the Department of Defense and industry for his leadership in the areas of work-life balance, diversity and inclusion. In 2010, he was selected to serve as the military lead for Policy Team of the Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group study. His personnel policy recommendations in the study provided the foundation for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Under his leadership, the Navy's Office of Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Diversity Working Group received the 2013 Diversity Council Honors Award™ as the Top Diversity Council in the country. As Chief of Naval Personnel, he also oversaw the return of NROTC to Harvard, Yale, Columbia and other Ivy League schools after decades of absence. He has participated in presentations at the United Nations for International Women's Day, and was a keynote speaker at the inaugural Gender in Defense and Security Leadership Conference in Canberra, Australia in March 2013.
Colonel James J. Keefe is the Commander, 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, MA. A native of Northampton, Massachusetts, he entered the Air Force in 1987 upon graduating from the U.S. Air Force ROTC program at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. During both active duty and the Air National Guard, Colonel Keefe has served in a variety of flying positions including: instructor pilot, flight commander, flying safety officer and squadron commander. In May 1999, he joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard as a traditional drill status guardsman. He has flown 330 hours of combat/combat support time in deployments supporting Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Noble Eagle. He has received numerous awards and decorations for his service and merit within the armed forces.
Vice Admiral William “Dean” D Lee assumed the duties as Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic in May of 2014, where he serves as the operational commander for all U.S. Coast Guard Missions from the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. He also serves as Commander, Defense Force East and provides Coast Guard mission support to the Department of Defense and Combatant Commanders. Vice Admiral Lee served as the Fifth District Commander in Portsmouth, Virginia where he directed more than 3,000 Coast Guard active duty, reserve, and civilian personnel, and supported response operations following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricanes Earl and Irene. He is on his seventh command assignment and has spent his career specializing in Boat Operations and Search and Rescue. Vice Admiral Lee has served along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, in addition to supporting operations overseas as Commander, Deployable Operations Group. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he graduated from the Officer Candidate School in 1981. His military decorations include the Legion of merit (five awards), Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Coast Guard Commendation Medal (three awards), Coast Guard Achievement Medal (two awards), and various other personal and unit awards.
Rear Admiral Larry Roy Marsh, Retired graduated with honors from William Howard Taft High School in Chicago’s Northwest side. He received a Congressional appointment to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated top 1% of his class. He entering nuclear power and submarine training and in February 1965, reported to his first submarine, USS CUBERA (SS 347), a World War II vintage diesel powered boat, where he served as Assistant Engineer and Weapons Officer. In 1967, Rear Admiral Marsh was selected as a Navy candidate for a postgraduate Olmsted Scholarship under cognizance of the Department of Defense. He was selected for promotion to Rear Admiral in March 1992; and in July 1992, he reported as the Director of Program Appraisal in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy in the Pentagon, where he served until May 1994 and was reassigned as the Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel. He retired from the Navy on July 1, 1998 following 35 years of active duty service.
Lieutenant General Wendy M. Masiello, USAF is the Director of Defense Contract Management Agency leading a Department of Defense agency that consists of more than 11,900 civilians and military personnel. Her key career experiences include the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Contracting, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Combat and Mission Support programs, and a deployment to Iraq as Principal Assistant for Contracting Forces in Iraq/Afghanistan where she began a program to focus US military spending within Iraq and Afghanistan to help rebuild local economies. Lieutenant General Masiello was an assistant professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology and Executive Director for the National Reconnaissance Office Inspector General. General Masiello was selected as one of Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100 in 2011; earned the Outstanding Leadership Award from Secretary of the Air Force Small Business Programs in 2012; and was recognized at the 2014 Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards as the public sector leader who has done the most to promote effective partnership between the public and private sectors within government contracting. Her military decorations include a Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal, and a Defense Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster.
Major Creighton A. Mullins assumed duties as a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in pursuit of a Master of Arts in Security Studies with a Middle East emphasis in Monterey, California. He received his commission in 2002 at the United States Air Force Academy, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History. During his first operational assignment at the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he served in a variety of intelligence related positions. Major Mullins deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom working in interrogation operations for a Joint Special Operations Task Force. From 2008 till 2009, he attended an intensive Arabic language program in Jerusalem, Israel. Most recently, he served as an Operations Officer and Team Chief for the Department of Defense in Detroit, Michigan, focusing on interagency coordination.
Lieutenant General Raymond Palumbo serves as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Director for Military Intelligence Warfighter Support, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense – Intelligence at The Pentagon. In his role, he is responsible for ensuring Combatant Commands have the intelligence policy, processes and resources they need to plan and conduct successful military operations and campaigns. A native of Windber, Pennsylvania, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry upon graduating from West Point and subsequently attended helicopter flight training. As a Captain, he joined the Special Operations community where he spent most of his 34-year career. With over nearly 3,000 hours of flight time in a variety of rotary-wing aircraft, Lieutenant General Palumbo has served in a variety of key command and staff assignments. Over his career he has received numerous awards and decorations for his participation in military operations around the globe beginning in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, the Middle East, South America, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other prominent honorees will include: Journalist Meredith Vieira, New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), and Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.
Nasser J. Kazeminy, chairman of NECO, states, “NECO seeks to inspire America to embrace diversity, tolerance and respect for all of its citizens by celebrating those who have given so much of themselves to the betterment of our nation and our world. Each of these honorees represents traits that I admire in great Americans: the vision of a better world for all, the tenacity to overcome challenges, and the leadership and imagination to blaze their own trail. And most importantly, they have the humility and self-reflection to appreciate the amazing opportunities that America has given them. They inspire me and we honor them so they can inspire others as well.”
As always, NECO remains dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of America’s greatest symbol of its immigrant history, Ellis Island. Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO has honored such distinguished and diverse Americans including: six Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, Hon. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace, Quincy Jones and Mia Farrow, all who have distinguished themselves through their significant contributions to this country.
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation’s most prestigious awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.