The USO is honored to name the 2023 USO Service Members of the Year, who are being recognized for their heroic and selfless actions.
Each year, people who serve in each of the military branches are nominated by their command leadership for performing extraordinary acts of bravery that exemplify the values of the Armed Forces and the USO. Get to know this year’s honorees:
Sgt. Michael Wolkeba | USO Soldier of the Year 2023
While driving one day, Sgt. Michael Wolkeba encountered a collision between a motor home and a commercial vehicle. The commercial vehicle had pierced the motor home, trapping an elderly couple inside. Michael unhesitatingly jumped on the scene, identifying himself as an Army Combat Medic to the state troopers, who accepted his assistance. Without any regard for his own personal safety, Michael quickly climbed into the motor home through a shattered window, incurring several wounds to his arms and torso. To reach the couple trapped in the motor home, he low-crawled through the debris and shattered glass until he reached the elderly woman who not only had pain in her leg, but also was having trouble breathing.
As a trained Army medic, Michael immediately began providing medical treatment to the injured woman, which ultimately kept her alive. He instantly began treating her massive bleeding by applying a tourniquet to her leg with a crowbar to relieve pressure. When the woman stopped breathing at one point, he prevented her from choking and used an oxygen tank and non-rebreather mask to keep her conscious. He then applied a C-Clamp and spine board, all while continuing to check both individuals’ vitals and providing comfort and support. If it hadn’t been for Michael’s selfless actions, the elderly woman may have succumbed to her injuries.
Sgt. Michael Wolkeba is originally from Winchester, California, and is serving with the United States Army as a Combat Medic. He is currently stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Dean Brantingham | USO Sailor of the Year 2023
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Dean Brantingham is a Behavioral Health Technician aboard the USS Carl Vinson. As a hospital corpsman, he is responsible for triaging and deciphering the care and necessities needed for 7,144 sailors across Strike Group One while operating in the United States Indo-Pacific Command and the Third Fleet’s area of responsibility.
On an early Saturday morning, Dean and his team awoke to bells ringing, signaling a medical emergency aboard the ship. Qualified as the Departmental Duty Officer, Dean assembled the Corpsmen emergency response team and gathered their gear. He headed up four levels to the scene, directing his sailors to navigate their way through the ship with stretchers and response bags in hand. As he arrived at the scene, multiple people looked distraught, and two were inconsolable.
Dean turned the corner to see a sailor face down in a pool of blood and he immediately dropped his gear and rushed to conduct a primary assessment, which included checking the patient’s pulse and preparing to collect vitals. In an attempt to maintain an open airway, the patient’s pulse diminished, and Dean instructed his team to initiate CPR and insert a nasopharyngeal airway, as well as the use of a defibrillator, until the arrival of Federal Fire.
Dean then prepared the patient for transport and began the descent through the ship and down ladder wells, all while avoiding an increased casualty count by maintaining the safety of his team and bystanders. His presence was key to consoling his team, and he was instrumental in leading focus groups for 550 distraught sailors and leadership in the aftermath of this tragic event.
Throughout the year, Dean led 34 Hospital Corpsmen in the delivery of mental health services for 4,400 sailors embarked on the USS Carl Vinson and 12 tenant commands. His efforts were pivotal and contributed to the following: 1,182 encounters, 294 triaged patients, 218 crisis interventions,66 safety assessments,61 individual therapy sessions, the facilitation of 30 stress-management, resiliency groups;,cultivating life-changing psychoeducation and coping skills to 260 patients, and ensured a 95% return to duty rate.
He designed a Situation Report (SITREP) tracker endorsed by Bureau of Medicine that streamlined reporting guidelines and currently, applied by nuclear-powered aircraft vessels throughout the fleet. Dean also orchestrated the planning and execution of a command Mental Health Wellness Day yielding therapy and mental rehabilitation for 2,900 sailors.
Dean is the definition of a hero through and through. His presence in his sailors’ lives dominates the positive outcomes that follow.
Staff Sgt. Andrew P. English | USO Airman of the Year 2023
On May 23, 2022, Staff Sgt. Andrew P. English distinguished himself at Hurlburt Field, Florida in May of 2022. Andrew was performing special mission aviator duties in support of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. Shortly after takeoff, Andrew detected a fire in the flight deck. He immediately sprang into action and took the lead in fighting the fire, extinguishing the flames with a hand-operated fire extinguisher and ensuring all passengers were secured and provided with emergency breathing devices.
Andrew’s quick thinking and fearlessness proved to be vital in an emergency situation. From firefighting to quickly administering emergency medical devices to his fellow passengers, Andrew’s not only saved a valuable American aircraft, but most importantly the lives of 15 aircrew members. Andrew’s distinctive accomplishments reflect credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
Staff Sgt. Andrew P. English is originally from Rocky Mount, Virginia, and is currently stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Sgt. Ramon Garcia | USO Marine of the Year 2023
From June 28, 2021 to May 10, 2022 Sgt. Ramon Garcia served as a Marine Security Guard (MSG) in Erbil, Iraq. While completing his mission at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Iraq, he took upon numerous leadership opportunities and distinguished himself in emergency situations – including the situations that led to his nomination.
On January 6, 2022, Ramon was on duty when a Foreign Service National (FSN) in the U.S. consulate came seeking medical assistance. The FSN was exercising in a gym when his wrist got caught on a squat rack and was sliced open. Upon notifying another MSG on duty, Ramon immediately took control of the situation and provided immediate first aid. He applied gauze to the wound, wrapped a compression bandage to ensure there was no excess bleeding and supported the gentleman until a medical nurse arrived and provided professional assistance. The FSN made a full recovery.
In another instance just a few weeks later on February 25, 2022, Ramon was on duty when he and another MSG received a call of a possible fire. Ramon and the MSG immediately reviewed all cameras to detect a fire in the area. Once the Marines located the fire through cameras, they took action immediately. The fire department was called, and Ramon made an announcement to all other Marines at the Marine Security Guard Residence, in order for them to wake up, get equipped and standby for further instructions. The Marines escorted the local fire department onto the compound and the fire was extinguished. Ramon’s good judgment and resourcefulness ensured that no one was injured during this emergency event.
Aside from these significant heroic acts that Ramon demonstrated, he also made the quality of life better for the Marines and individuals of the U.S. Consulate with his natural leadership. Ramon noticed that when Marines would volunteer, they were not provided documentation to represent the efforts they performed. Upon speaking to the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) and discussing the production of a Letter of Appreciation (LOA) for the Marines. Ramon described the importance of such awards for the career development of Marines and provided necessary templates. Once producing LOA’s was recommended, the CLO approved them and began to facilitate the Marines in all future volunteer events and activities.
Sgt. Ramon is originally from Homestead, Florida, and is currently stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
Staff Sgt. Cody J. Foster | USO National Guardsman of the Year 2023
On the evening of November 18, 2022, while serving under a Texas state activation in support of Operation Lone Star, Staff Sgt. Cody J. Foster spotted a mother carrying her 3-year-old child across a vast mudflap in the Rio Grande River. As she traversed across the mudflap on the Mexico side of the border, her shoes were consumed in the mud due to its thickness. As she continued, her struggles multiplied, causing her major injuries and bleeding on her feet. Both the mother and the child made it to the U.S. side of the border where Cody manned his station, but were severely malnourished and dehydrated from their journey.
Without hesitation, Cody approached the pair to assess their condition and put his Self-Aid Buddy Care training to use by providing them with immediate care. Cody continued to provide the pair with the help they needed to recover while coordinating support from his command to provide transportation in order to provide professional medical care to help save the lives of this mother and child.
Cody embodied the standards of the Air Force Core Values, but foremost among these shown was his “Service Before Self.” He was fully aware of the risks that he faced to his own life and chose to accept that risk in an effort to save the lives of others. As a direct result of his heroic actions, Cody prevented what could have resulted in a tragic loss of life.
Cody’s fortitude and swift actions in a moment of crisis demonstrated his suitability for leadership within the Air National Guard and further establishes him as an asset to any organization he serves.
Staff Sgt. Cody Foster serves with the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard in Fort Worth, Texas, and hails from Lubbock, Texas.
Spc. Danielle C. Green | USO Guardian of the Year 2023
On July 23, 2022, Specialist Danielle C. Green exemplified the core value of Courage when she selflessly provided life-saving first aid and care to a woman in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Danielle was off-duty one day with her husband and friends when she heard a woman screaming from a distance. She immediately sprinted toward the noise and found herself at the scene of an injured woman standing in a parking lot, surrounded by five witnesses who were all frozen in the moment.
Danielle promptly stepped in and assessed the situation, observing heavy bleeding from two deep lacerations on the woman’s thigh, measuring approximately six inches long and three inches wide. Danielle instinctively moved the woman onto the sidewalk, out of harm’s way, and treated her by urgently applying direct pressure to the multiple wounds.
After observing that the bleeding was not stopping and determining the risk of an artery being severed due to bright red blood, Danielle created a makeshift tourniquet with just a bandanna and a Sharpie. She directly placed the tourniquet on the femoral artery, above the wound, which promptly stopped the bleeding. After applying aid to the wounds, Danielle and her husband moved the individual to her friend’s car. Upon bringing her to the vehicle, Danielle and her husband were able to pull up directions to the closest hospital, relay them to the driver, and they left right away.
The quick action and thinking by Danielle ultimately saved this woman from losing any more blood, potentially saving her limb and life. Danielle performed beyond her scope of responsibility and represented the United States Space Force in the highest standards. She selflessly acted in an emergency situation without thinking twice to provide assistance to a stranger in need. Danielle’s dedication to the Space Force ultimately pushed her above her peers by being awarded “Outstanding Guardian of the Year” for Courage.
Spc. Danielle C. Green is currently stationed at Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado, and is originally from Plainfield, Illinois.
Petty Officer Jordan M. Canion | USO Coast Guardsman of the Year 2023
Petty Officer Jordan M. Canion serves on his unit as a Pursuit and Tactical Coxswain for Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu. In this role, Jordan works tirelessly to support the American boating public, secure the homeland borders and has deployed throughout the United States and its territories ensuring boating safety and national security.
Always striving to improve the unit and quality of teammates’ lives, Jordan has dedicated a significant amount of personal time to develop a complex six-month training calendar that maintains currencies and qualifications for all members. He has also actively sought out greater responsibilities far beyond his assigned position and instills a sense of ownership amongst the junior members through mentorship and one-on-one coaching.
Jordan’s hard work and dedication were pivotal in reinstating his unit’s Non-Compliant Pursuit Vessel Program, a program designed to prepare pursuit crews for the dangerous and difficult tasks associated with stopping non-compliant vessels at sea. During his deployments, he exhibited unwavering professionalism throughout the nation on missions to detect, deter and intercept illegal drug and migrant trafficking activities in regions seldom patrolled by Coast Guard forces. Through his efforts, Jordan personally has supported six deployments to the U.S.-Mexico border supporting Department of Homeland Security’s Southern Border and Approaches Campaign, resulting in the interdictions of more than 34 vessels. Across all missions, he has accumulated over 65 Maritime Security Response Operations sorties, 55 Small Vessel Security Boardings, 24 Recreational Safety boardings, and one Search and Rescue case.
Originally from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Petty Officer Jordan Cainon is now stationed in Honolulu. His unwavering dedication and personal commitment to safety, seamanship and learning have made him a great asset to the U.S. Coast Guard.
More Stories Like This
Meet the 2022 USO Service Members of the Year
The USO is honored to name the 2022 USO Service Members of the Year. Get to know this year's honorees!
Meet the 2021 USO Service Members of the Year
The USO is honored to name the 2021 USO Service Members of the Year. Get to know this year's honorees!
Meet the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year
The USO is honored to name the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year. Get to know this year's honorees!
More from the USO
Dec 7, 2023
5 Ways Americans Can Deliver a Piece of Home to Troops During the Holidays
Every holiday season, service members stationed around the world are making sacrifices on behalf of their country while far from loved ones. If you are asking yourself how you can deliver the holiday spirit to the people who serve thousands of miles away, here are five ways you can deliver a piece of home to service members during the holidays.
Nov 21, 2023
Is the USO a Nonprofit? Yes!
At the USO, we talk a lot about the people who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces because they are the ones in need of support, and they are the ones who deserve the spotlight. However, we sometimes don’t talk enough about who we are as an organization, and whether or not the USO is a nonprofit. Yes - the USO is, in fact, a nonprofit, non-government organization and we rely on generous donors like you to fuel our support of the nation’s military.