Operations Specialist 2nd Class Alvin Balthazar pauses for a photo after being presented The American Legion's Spirit of Service Award from American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong, left, in Indianapolis, Aug. 28. Also with Balthazar are Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, senior military assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and actor J.R. Martinez, a former U.S. Army Soldier. (Photo courtesy of The American Legion)

INDIANAPOLIS - Navy Petty Officer Second Class Alvin Balthazar, an Operations Specialist serving with the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, received The American Legion's Spirit of Service Award Aug. 28 in recognition of his extensive volunteer efforts.

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong presented the award with Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC, Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense during The American Legion's 94th National Convention at the Indiana Convention Center. Balthazar was honored along with representatives from the other four armed services at the annual business gathering of the 2.4 million-member Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1987, he joined the Navy shortly after graduating high school in 2005. Following basic training at Great Lakes, Ill., he reported to his first duty station, the frigate USS Crommelin (FFG-37) where he began his "career" in volunteerism.

After conducting knot tying training for the Hawaii Sea Cadets onboard the Battle Ship Missouri Memorial, he went on to contribute many hours in restoring the teak deck onboard the battleship while continuing his work in training Sea Cadets. In 2009, he was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal which also recognized his volunteer work as Martin Luther King program coordinator, Trinity Missionary Baptist Church program participant, the Holomua Elementary School pen pal program and community relations projects in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

His monthly coordination of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii grounds and restoration project has enabled the house to save money on landscaping fees and divert those funds to the needy families that reside on the premises during their time of need.

Balthazar said that much of his success can be attributed to "many dedicated leaders who took the time to mentor and groom me to become the sailor I am today."

Before being nominated for the award by his supervisors, he was not aware of the work of The American Legion, but he learned quickly. Wong presented him a membership in The American Legion as part of the award. "He makes all of his 2.4 million fellow Legionnaires very proud," Wong said.

"I am humbly honored," Balthazar said. "It's nice to know that I'm part of an organization that has been around for many years and impacts the community in such a positive way. The support and gratitude I've received here from Legion members and staff made me feel welcome and proud to serve in the United States military."

"Our nation is fortunate to have such dedicated servicemembers as Alvin Balthazar," Cmdr. Wong said. "For both his service to America and his community, Petty Officer Balthazar is a credit to his uniform and to our country."

This is the 13th year that The American Legion has sponsored the Spirit of Service award program.