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Submariner Receives Military Citizen of the Year Award

by Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Public Affairs

image, caption to follow
(Left) Petty Officer 1st Class Rodney E. Buse shares his selection as the 54th recipient of the Samuel T. Northern Military Citizen of the Year (MCOY) with his wife, Nicole, and Capt. John Carter, the strategic forces, nuclear weapons and force protection director for Commander, Submarine Force (SUBFOR). (Right) Petty Officer 1st Class Buse delivers a thank-you speech after being selected as the 54th MCOY. He was formally recognized at the annual MCOY luncheon sponsored by Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and held in Norfolk, Va. The award is given annually by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce to recognize the military citizen who has made the most impactful contribution in the area of community service. Photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Stratton

Petty Officer 1st Class Rodney E. Buse was honored as the 54th recipient of the Samuel T. Northern Military Citizen of the Year (MCOY). The award is given annually by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce to recognize the military citizen who has made the most impactful contribution in the area of community service. Buse was formally recognized at the annual MCOY luncheon sponsored by Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and held in Norfolk, Va.

“I was floored, because I really didn’t think I had a chance,” said Buse, the force protection assistant and staff anti-terrorism officer at Commander, Submarine Force (SUBFOR) Headquarters in Norfolk. “All the other nominees had done so much for the community, so being singled out and recognized is very humbling.”

The honor is the highest award bestowed by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce on the local military. Buse, a 36-year-old Terre Haute, Ind., native, was selected from among 17 nominees from U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy commands in the Hampton Roads area. He was recognized for his charitable work with the BMX for Christ Ministries, the Bethany Christian Services, the American Diabetes Association, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

But primarily it was his work in the BMX for Christ Ministries that he believes may have put him over the top.

“I’m not really sure what was the key factor in my selection,” said Buse. “All I can guess at this point is that it was the idea of BMX for Christ and how we’re helping kids in an unconventional format. When people think about sports programs, the first ones that come to mind are football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, not BMX racing. I think we have forgotten that BMX bicycle racing is an Olympic sport, and an American-born sport.”

Buse is the founder and director of the BMX for Christ Ministries. The non-profit ministry is organized to provide bikes, safety gear, and licensing and racing fees for less fortunate children and teens — enabling them to take part in the sport. Through the ministries’ partnership with Bethany Christian Services, they help promote older child and special needs adoptions within the BMX racing community.

There are more than 500,000 children in foster care in the U.S. alone, with 120,000 of them eligible for adoption. However, less than 60,000 of those eligible for adoption are placed in forever families. As the administrator of BMX for Christ Ministries, Buse’s fundraising activities and liaisons with sponsors and the Department of Social Services are able to make some of these children’s dreams come true.

“My hope is that the attention received from my selection will greatly improve our efforts with the ministries during the 2010 season,” said Buse. “There are a lot more children and teens we’d like to help, but with our budget constraints it is difficult. We’re a completely volunteer program, and there have been a few times that I’ve purchased bikes and gear out of my own pocket to make things happen for a kid. I don’t like telling kids no because of monetary issues.”

Buse’s positive and proactive approach in administrating his organization, and his diligence in helping it achieve its mission, comes naturally. His father was a maintenance supervisor in the Central Indiana coal mines, and his mother was the CEO of the Terre Haute (Vigo County) chapters of Big Brother/Big Sister, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children, and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Also, during his childhood years, he grew up in a household with one biological sister, three foster children, and 27 foreign exchange students.

“Having gone through that experience, I really understand the plight of the kids I’m working with,” said Buse. “It’s funny, though, when I tell people that I have more than 30 brothers and sisters.”

After graduating from Terre Haute South Vigo High School in 1992, he enrolled at Indiana State University. His matriculation there didn’t last long.

“I realized that I needed some serious structure in my life to make it, and the Navy offered that discipline,” said Buse. “When I went to the military processing center, I was being offered some occupations that sounded boring. Then he mentioned submarines, and I became captivated by the idea of doing something that everyone else wasn’t doing. As I was getting ready to graduate from boot camp, I began to understand the significance and meaning of serving my country.”

After graduation, Buse received his submarine school and occupational (machinist’s mate) training in Groton, Conn. Since then, he has served on the fast attack submarines USS Asheville (SSN-758), homeported in San Diego, Calif.; USS Key West (SSN-722), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; USS Albany (SSN-753), homeported in Norfolk, Va.; and USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, also homeported in Norfolk, Va. In addition, he has served on the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39), homeported in La Maddalena, Italy, and at Naval Medicine in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Buse’s professional and civic accomplishment has been appreciated by all on the SUBFOR staff, but a little more by his immediate supervisor.

“Petty Officer Buse’s selection as the 2009 Military Citizen of the Year is truly an inspiring experience for me and the Submarine Force staff,” said Capt. John Carter, strategic forces, nuclear weapons and force protection director for SUBFOR. “His selfless contributions to his community should remind all of us that supporting our local community is vital to the fabric of our society.”

“It strengthens our families and teaches our children civility, fellowship, and humanity. It reinforces the importance of the strong and committed bond between the military and the communities in which we reside. His contributions to this partnership exemplify a standard all Americans should strive for.”

While appreciating the accolades that have come from his chain-of-command, Buse is more appreciative of the support his chain-of-command has given him.

“There have been times where appointments or meeting with agencies were scheduled during the workday,” said Buse. “My chain-of-command always supported me, and for that I am most grateful. I am hoping that their support in helping me get the MCOY will also help me make chief petty officer and further my Navy career.”