By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Martin, Navy Recruiting Command
For nearly 100 years, the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) has been dedicated to serving those who have also served. Whether through volunteer work or simply promoting patriotism, Auxiliary members never waiver from their commitment to honor military veterans and their families.
Beginning in 2003, the ALA broadened its focus from honoring military veterans to also honoring those who are on active duty by founding the Salute to Active Duty Servicewomen Award.
The latest servicewoman to take home the award for the Navy is none other than Navy Recruiting Command’s (NRC) own Lt. Evita Salles who was named the awardee at the American Legion Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Aug. 30.
Currently serving as NRC’s director of reserve officer accessions, Salles has been drawn to a life of service from an early age.
“I have wanted to join the Navy since high school when I was a part of the NJROTC unit,” said Salles. “There, I was first exposed to the Navy and I knew this was the place where I could grow and thrive to the best of my abilities and have a rewarding experience.”
And a rewarding experience she has had indeed. The Neptune, N.J., native couldn’t be more thrilled to accept the ALA Salute to Active Duty Servicewomen Award.
“It was a tremendous honor receiving this award and being recognized by the American Legion Auxiliary,” said Salles. “It is a reminder to me that I am on the right track with what I am doing with my life, and it motivates me to keep on striving to higher levels of excellence.”
In addition to tangible awards, Salles will be the first to admit that her time in the Navy has also provided her with rewards that aren’t as shiny but, undoubtedly, just as valuable
“The military has shaped me in ways I could never have imagined since I first joined in November of 2007,” said Salles. “I am so much more mature, wise and educated than I was 10 years ago. The Navy has sharpened me spiritually, physically and mentally by challenging me to be the best version of myself through everyday occurrences and opportunities. Every day in the military is an opportunity to do well for others and for one’s self.”
Throughout her career, Salles has been given the chance to serve in a variety of career fields from Public Affairs to Naval Flight Officer to her current field of Human Resources. Whatever community Salles was involved with, she credits the Navy for providing so many opportunities to her.
“Overall, the Navy has sharpened me as a person in so many ways,” said Salles. “I’ve done such a variety of jobs and projects within the Navy that span several professional areas of expertise. No other service allows you the opportunity to be a part of several communities and thrive like the Navy does.”
After serving in so many different communities, Salles has found that serving others provides a level of self-satisfaction as well.
“One time I was running the PRT, and when I finished I noticed there were still several shipmates behind me who were still running,” said Salles. “One girl in particular struggled with her run and I felt compelled to go back and run with her until she finished strong, even though I was super tired. I wanted to do what I could as her fellow shipmate to motivate her to press on to the best of her abilities. I felt a sense of duty and obligation to do what I could with what little I had left in me to help someone else. This is how I feel each time I serve others, whether it’s for a large project or something as small as helping someone off their feet.”
Whether it is motivating someone through a run or solving problems as a human resources officer, it is clear that Salles is all about the people she works with.
“I’ve done lots of mentoring, which is something I am very passionate about,” said Salles. “I love working with and helping people and solving problems. Hands down, my best experiences have come from other people with whom I have had the privilege of serving with. I’ve learned so much from people who’ve led me, those I’ve led and, of course, my peers.”
Though she has met some great people during her time in the Navy, it was an old friend that finally brought Salles to the attention of the ALA.
“I was nominated by my good friend, Doreen Gallagher, who actively volunteers with the ALA,” said Salles. “We have been friends since elementary school, so she knows me pretty well. She knew of the types of things I have been involved with both within the Navy and outside the Navy, so she felt I would be a great pick to nominate for the award.”
Having known Salles for so long, Gallagher was certain her childhood friend would be a perfect candidate for the award.
“Lt. Salles embodies the American Legion Auxiliary Mission Statement of ‘in the spirit of service, not self’ in her personal life and in her military career,” said Gallagher. “She showed her commitment to the local community by participating in local community service projects and being involved in her local church. I am absolutely thrilled that she won this award. It truly is an honor to know her personally. She is truly deserving of this award.”
Aligning with her values of service, Salles recognizes the importance of the ALA and looks to inspire others to the noble cause of the organization.
“The ALA does so much volunteer work for veterans, military service members and their families and they have so many incredible projects and programs going on throughout the year,” said Salles. “They truly embody the spirit of service!”
While the Salute to Servicewomen Award is certainly rewarding for Salles, she knows her work is far from being done.
“After I retire someday, I’d love to continue serving and leading others within the military or another organization—wherever I am called to serve,” said Salles. “I hope that my children and future generations will continue the family tradition of loyal and devoted military service to others. I hope to continue growing and maturing spiritually, mentally and physically toward the best version of myself and helping others do the same. I will not stop growing, serving and helping others until it is my time to go. I am drawn to step in and help my fellow man and woman with all that I have whether it’s my last few breaths or my full capacity. I believe I am called to do this, and it makes me feel fulfilled and alive.”