USO Armed Forces Honorees Tour USSNJ

by Press Release--The Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial | Oct 4, 2008
USO Armed Forces Honorees Tour USSNJ The USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, (Liberty USO), presented its 2008 Military Service Member of the Year Awards at the 67th Liberty Gala, on Friday, October 3, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Cherry Hill, NJ. The five recipients visited the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial for a tour prior to the Gala.

The annual award, given to one service member from each of the five branches of the US Armed Services, is the highest military honor bestowed by the Liberty USO. Liberty USO is proud to announce its 2008 Military Service Members of the Year: Master Sergeant John Welgos, United States Army; Petty Officer Tor Christensen, United States Navy; Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Fahnestock, United States Air Force; Sergeant George L. Bolton, United States Marine Corps; and, Petty Officer Tye Conklin, United States Coast Guard.

As part of a tour of the Philadelphia area, the honorees visit the nation’s largest and most decorated battleship on Friday, Oct. 3rd. While onboard, they posed for photos under the Battleship’s legendary 16-inch guns and then toured the ship. Battleship Curator Jason Hall will be this VIP group’s tour guide.

MASTER SERGEANT JOHN WELGOS, of the New Jersey Army National Guard, very recently returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan, where he served as the senior noncommissioned officer for an embedded training team responsible for training Afghani military and police personnel. Special Forces-trained and Army Ranger-qualified, as well as a combat infantryman, Sergeant Welgos is also qualified as a master parachutist. He is a true citizen soldier, with more than 30 years of service in the Regular Army and National Guard. A retired police officer for the Township of Edison, New Jersey, where he lives with his family, Sergeant Welgos is active in his local community.

SERGEANT GEORGE L. BOLTON, a member of the select Marines Corps Reserve from Reading, Pennsylvania, is a towed artillery section chief responsible for supervising a gun crew of nine Marines. In 2006 and 2007 he mobilized to Iraq, where he served as part of a vital security contingent in the dangerous province of Al Anbar. He was commended for his performance in conducting mounted patrols, perimeter security and entry control operations while in Iraq. He also served flawlessly as a patrol navigator, sergeant of the guard, and squad leader. Sergeant Bolton has been cited by his commander as the epitome of the citizen soldier for his devotion to our nation, the local community and his fellow Marines.

SENIOR MASTER SERGEANT THOMAS FAHNESTOCK, New Jersey Air National Guard, is the squadron first sergeant at the 108th Security Forces Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base. He recently served more than six months under combat conditions as security forces squadron first sergeant at Baghdad International Airport, for a diverse unit that included more than 350 soldiers and airmen. Leading by example, Sergeant Fahnestock joined his unit on dangerous combat searches. With the Guard, he previously served with distinction during Operation Desert Storm, following the attacks of 9/11, and in support of Operation Jump Start. Sergeant Fahnestock's commander cites his exemplary leadership and unwavering dedication to mission. He resides in Cherry Hill, NJ.

PETTY OFFICER TYE CONKLIN, of the United States Coast Guard Air Station, Atlantic City, New Jersey, joined the Coast Guard in 1997, and is an aviation survival technician, (also known as a rescue swimmer). Trained to provide assistance to persons in distress, with his crew Petty Officer Conklin has participated in a number of noteworthy rescues. During a nor'easter with 80 miles per hour winds and seas cresting at 15 to 20 feet, while their helicopter rescue crew was assisting a research vessel that was taking on water and breaking up, Petty Office Conklin rescued a severely injured man below deck. Later that same day, he saved a sailboat crewman in 20-foot breaking surf. He has consistently demonstrated the core values of the United States Coast Guard: "honor, respect, and devotion to duty." He lives in Beasley Point, NJ.

Fourteen-year Navy veteran PETTY OFFICER TOR CHRISTENSEN is stationed at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. He serves as leading petty officer for the weapons department, with responsibility for the supervision, managing and mentoring of 16 sailors. His commanding officer describes him as a phenomenal mentor and sailor, "by far the number one aviation ordnance man in his command." Among other achievements, Petty Officer Christensen is a designated enlisted aviation warfare specialist. Active in the civilian community, he has organized fundraisers and is a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. The proud father of four-year-old twin boys, he resides in Warminster, PA.

The Military Service Member of Year Awards was presented at the USO’s 67th Liberty Gala, on Friday, October 3, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Cherry Hill, NJ. Marking the first time that the annual fund raising event was held in New Jersey, this year's gala was presented in partnership with the 7th Annual South Jersey Veteran's Dinner Dance. Additional honorees included Liberty Award recipient the Honorable Gordon England, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, and New Jersey Commendation Medal recipient Vince Papale, former Philadelphia Eagle and inspiration for the movie “Invincible.”

Meteorologist Karen Rogers (ABC 6 Action News) served as Master of Ceremonies for the USO Gala on Friday evening; entertainer and former Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo made a special appearance. Others in attendance to honor the armed forces included radio personality and former Philadelphia Eagle Garry Cobb; Jill Horner, host of CN8’s “Your Morning;” and award-winning newswoman Cheryl Elias of KYW Newsradio.

Berthed on the Camden Waterfront across the Delaware River from Center City Philadelphia, the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial is a non-profit historic ship museum that offers guided and self-guided tours daily. Experience the new guided City at Sea Tour, which features newly restored spaces such as the TV Studio, Machine Shop, Post Office, Medical and Dental facilities, the Brig, the Barber Shop and more. The Battleship New Jersey allows visitors a variety ways to experience the ship, including overnight encampments for youth groups and families, special group and student tours and event rentals with a full catering menu. Ride NJ Transit’s Riverline to the Battleship New Jersey. Visit for fares and schedules. For more information on the ship’s many programs, visit

For more than 67 years, the United Service Organizations (USO) of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, Inc. or “Liberty USO” has served the needs of America’s active duty, National Guard and reserve military personnel and their families throughout Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. The Liberty USO is a chartered affiliate of World USO, a congressionally chartered, nonprofit organization and not a government agency. The Liberty USO is supported solely through voluntary contributions and receives no government funding. The USO’s Mission worldwide is to enhance the quality of life of U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families worldwide and to create a cooperative relationship between U.S. military communities and involved or supporting civilian communities. To find out more about Liberty USO, its programs in support of our local armed forces, and how you can volunteer, visit Liberty USO’s website (

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Author: Press Release--The Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial



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