Nearly 200 civilians from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber gathered Nov. 8 at the 34th annual John H. Anderson Military Citizen of the Year award ceremony to honor the top service member who has contributed so much to his or her community through volunteer service.
This years winner was Joint Base Lewis-McChords own Sgt. Robert Pangaro, a squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Pangaro is currently serving in a platoon on the rear detachment that prepares Soldiers who are transitioning out of the Army; he ensures Soldiers make their appointments and have their records in order and that they attend briefings that will better prepare them for life as a civilian.
Out of uniform, Pangaro, a Clifton, N.J., native, dedicates his time to ensuring the children of Park Lodge Elementary, in Lakewood, are getting the funding they need by volunteering for the Parent Teacher Student Association. Pangaro is currently serving a two-year term as the PTSA president for Park Lodge, where he is responsible for overseeing the decisions for the allocation of nonprofit funds, which include school bus transportation, field trips, field days and extracurricular activities like school dances and graduations for the 350 students who attend the school.
Pangaro also established a local program called Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students). The program takes father-figures fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc.and has them work with kids in group or individual settings as a means of providing more support to the children. Because of his duties as PTSA President, Pangaro handed over the Watch DOGS program to another program manager, but continues to remain active in it as much as possible.
In addition to PTSA President, Pangaro, and his wife, Stephanie, are members of the Clover Park School District Teachers and Parents Team and he is a member of the Site Council Park Lodge Elementary, which will help decide how to transition to a Title 1 school in the next year. Title 1 denotes that the vast majority of students are living at poverty-level. It is for this reason that Pangaro has also helped establish a way for teachers to offset their personal purchases on classroom materials by establishing a request for funds program.
Pangaro and Stephanie are also head coaches for a wrestling team.
The outcome of ones hard work is a reward in itself, Pangaro said, as he accepted the award. However, recognition by ones peers is an enormous compliment.
Pangaro, who has five kids at home, between the ages 13 and 2, said at times its been no easy stroll but the stress and obstacles hes faced have made it more rewarding in the end. In his acceptance speech he thanked the many people who worked side-by-side with him in all his projects.
My wife, Stephanie the woman not behind the man but right next to him, he said. She has been my partner on almost every one of my endeavors.
He also thanked Synette Melluzzo, the principal of Park Lodge Elementary.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for our children and future leaders, he told Melluzzo.
The 7th Infantry Division is extremely proud of Sergeant Pangaro for his efforts to contribute in substantial ways to the Lakewood community, said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, 7th Inf. Div. commanding general, who was in attendance at the ceremony. We are grateful for the Rotary and Chamber of Commerce taking the time to recognize our excellent Soldiers, who are also excellent members of their communities.
According to the Chamber, the John H. Anderson Military Citizen of the Year award was created to honor an outstanding military citizen to commemorate the civic contributions by resident military personnel. John H. Anderson was a veteran who served as Tacomas mayor in the early to mid-1950s. He was also a former Chair of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber Board of Directors, as well as a local businessman.
Americas Credit Union works with the Chamber and Rotary to sponsor the event.
There is no question that Sergeant Pangaro devotes countless hours and boundless energy to improving and serving his community, said Amy Tiemeyer, award sponsor for Americas Credit Union, and the ACU Military Relations Liaison.
This is fantastic, said Pangaro. Its definitely a group effort ... I think it gives more credibility to all Soldiers who serve in their communities.