2023 Clambake and Soldier-Citizen Award Honors Service Members and Veterans
The American College Center for Military and Veterans Affairs empowers military members in transition to civilian employment.
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October 12, 2023
On Thursday, September 21, The American College of Financial Services held its 9th annual Clambake and Soldier-Citizen Award Ceremony–a patriotic event focused on The College’s ongoing support for military service members, veterans, and families.
The Clambake is the signature event of the American College Center for Military and Veterans Affairs. Along with its Founding Partner and Sponsor, Penn Mutual, the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs aims to support service members, veterans, and spouses in transition to civilian employment. The annual Clambake is the centerpiece of this effort, and as always, it proved to be an evening to remember.
Honoring Our Heroes
The 2023 Clambake was held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: a stone’s throw from The College’s headquarters and a perfect venue for a celebration of service and sacrifice in our nation’s proudest tradition. With flags hanging overhead in the grand upstairs gallery, surrounded by full-length windows looking out on Independence Mall and by the words of the Constitution of the United States emblazoned on the walls, the location lent even more gravitas to an event already overflowing with it.
After a cocktail hour in which leaders from The College, the financial services industry, and the military mixed and mingled, the evening’s program began with Jim Roy, PMP®, CMSAF (Ret.) Executive Director of the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs, welcoming the crowd and opening the Clambake with the National Anthem. John Bernesky, an officer of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, sang the anthem, accompanied on the stage by a color guard of Reserve Officer Training Corps team members from local colleges, and received a rousing ovation.
Following the anthem, Center Director Phil Easton, CMSGT, USAF (Ret.) presided over another Clambake tradition: the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action tribute. ROTC team members assisted with the ceremony of setting an empty dinner table, featuring many symbolic objects, as a representation of prisoners of war and missing-in-action service members and honoring the memory of those who never came home–a number, as Easton pointed out, that includes 82,000 American soldiers in the last century.
Furthering the Mission
After the tribute, Roy returned to the stage to thank the event’s sponsors and supporters, as well as deliver an update on the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs’ many initiatives to assist service members, veterans, and spouses through financial knowledge and education. The list of accomplishments included a major realignment of the Center’s scholarship program for those in transition to civilian employment and a partnership with The College’s Career Services team to focus on resources for service members, veterans, and spouses–including a Career Pathways Guide outlining how the financial services industry can be an ideal environment for such individuals to grow professionally and carry on their commitment to serving others.
One of the biggest announcements of the evening was Roy’s introduction of the Center’s partnering with First Command Educational Foundation and their Take Command e-learning program. Similar to The College’s consumer financial education program Know Yourself, Grow Your Wealth, Take Command is focused on providing former military service members essential financial financial readiness tools to improve their post-service lives.
Dr. Tracey Jones, head of the Center’s advisory board, then took the stage as the Clambake’s official emcee. With her signature style, Dr. Jones introduced several guests of honor for the evening: military scholars who have benefitted from the Center and The College’s efforts to provide education to transitioning service members, veterans, and spouses. Several of the military scholars spoke to their experiences via video or at the mic, thanking both entities and everyone present for their generosity and support.
Recognizing a Living Legend
Of course, the Clambake wouldn’t be complete without the yearly presentation of The College’s Soldier-Citizen Award. Given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions both to the defense of our nation and to the financial services industry, the Soldier-Citizen Award is the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs’ highest honor. Past recipients have included such pivotal figures in our country’s military as General Lester Lyles, USAF (Ret.), Admiral Thomas Fargo, USN (Ret.), and General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.).
Inducted into the pantheon of Soldier-Citizen Award recipients this year was another legendary figure: Admiral Michael Mullen, USN (Ret.). Most notably, Admiral Mullen served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest position in the US military, from 2007 to 2011 under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. While in this position, Admiral Mullen spearheaded the elimination of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy instituted in 1994 to curtail debate about LGBTQIA+ individuals serving in the military. Under Admiral Mullen’s leadership, the US military threw its doors wide and committed to openly accepting the service of those from all backgrounds and orientations. He also presided over the military during a tremendous time of change both domestically and globally.
True to form, many of Admiral Mullen’s contemporaries and fellow military members spoke of him as a man of character and integrity above all else. From guest speaker CAPT Karin Vernazza, USN, to the numerous military members who offered congratualtions to Admiral Mullen via video, all identified him as a principled leader who put others before himself and who is unflinchingly committed to doing the right thing. Admiral Mullen accepted the award, a bust of warrior-philosopher Pericles, along with Roy and George Nichols III, CAP®, President and CEO of The College, and humbly thanked everyone present for the honor.
As is tradition, President Nichols closed the Clambake evening by recognizing the team from The College’s Center for Military and Veterans Affairs for all the work they do in serving those who have served us. He also identified the military, service members, and veterans as a key demographic for the financial services industry to mine for the future leaders and advisors of tomorrow.