While working on a service project cleaning the Vietnam War Memorial in time for Memorial Day some years back, Culinary Specialist 1st Class Evan Kern, experienced something that changed his life forever.
Kern and other veterans were cleaning the memorial when he saw one of his fellow veterans emotionally break down. Through water and soap bubbles on the black granite, the veteran saw a friend’s name etched into the surface of the memorial. Kern realized his fellow comrade-in-arms couldn’t face the trauma of seeing his lost brother’s name in the wall that day in Washington, D.C.
Kern felt pangs of anguish and sympathy in his heart as he watched a combat-hardened veteran reduced to emotional blubber. It was in that poignant moment that he knew he had to live his life not just for himself, but to help those in pain and need.
In the years afterward, this revelation at the Vietnam Wall would motivate Kern to spend countless hours volunteering to improve the lives of others, and, eventually, to be recognized by the Navy for his outstanding efforts.
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“Volunteering is selfless,” said Kern. “I do it to help others and to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
From O’Fallon, Illinois, Kern has been involved in service projects at all of his duty stations. Today, he serves at the Navy Region Northwest on Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. But when he’s not working, he’s volunteering hundreds of hours to off-duty charities or coordinating volunteer events all over the Puget Sound. Kern says that volunteering in the community is so much a part of his life now, that he wouldn’t know any other way.
“His dedication to the Kitsap community and communities around the world is evident as he performed numerous volunteer service projects,” said Rear Adm. Gary A. Mayes, the commander of Navy Region Northwest. “Kern’s sense of service, civic pride, and compassion for others has been continually demonstrated by his dedicated involvement.”
For example, Kern volunteered more than 150 hours overseeing the production and service of food for 1,200 guests at the Habitat for Humanity fundraising dinner, which helped raise $12,000 to benefit homeless and displaced citizens in the local community.
Kern’s sense of service, civic pride, and compassion for others has been continually demonstrated by his dedicated involvement.
Rear Adm. Gary A. Mayes, commander of Navy Region Northwest
He served as the lead kitchen supervisor for the Bremerton Salvation Army, helping organize and prepare more than 900 monthly meals to homeless and displaced citizens of Bremerton, enhancing the quality of life for the less fortunate.
Kern also served as a role model and mentor to students at Bremerton’s Green Mountain Elementary School, visiting with students weekly, assisting with homework, school assignments and various projects, as well as providing one-on-one mentorship and assistance with academic and personal issues through the school’s “Lunch Buddy” program.
The sailor also visited the Veterans Hospital in San Diego monthly to assist veterans with everyday tasks such as exercise, shopping, picking up mail, and serving lunch in the cafeteria.
Kern says he has always experienced positive support from the Navy chain of command toward his volunteerism. When Kern worked as galley supervisor at the Naval Base Kitsap Bangor Trident Inn Galley, he would invite all his young sailors to come out and volunteer with him.
“I never had a sailor say to me, ‘Don’t invite me again,’” he said. “That never happened.”
Instead, after Kern planted that small seed of volunteerism into his sailors, he discovered they were going out and finding service projects by themselves. Sometimes Kern and his fellow sailors would visit the Salvation Army kitchen and help prepare meals and serve the food.
“It gave my guys a sense of pride and service to our community,” he said.
Volunteering is selfless. I do it to help others and to be a part of something bigger than myself.
U.S. Navy Culinary Specialist 1st Class Evan Kern of O’Fallon
Kern says volunteering is about helping people down on their luck.
“We aren’t better than anyone else,” he stressed. “We are all simply lucky to be alive, six feet above the ground. I don’t do this alone; someone once helped me out when I needed it most.”
Because of his volunteerism, Kern has been authorized to wear the prestigious Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for continuous outstanding public service. There is no time limit required for the MOVSM, but most awarding authorities require that the volunteer’s service must exceed three years in length and 500 hours of documented service.
“We recognize this outstanding sailor for his years of dedication to community service,” Mayes said. “But, he isn’t the only sailor doing right by our community. There are countless sailors, Marines, Navy civilians, reservists and family members who donate incalculable hours towards our friends and neighbors around the Puget Sound. Evan is just one sailor who proves how much good a single person can do in support of this community.”
Meet Evan Kern
Parents: Tony and Brelinda Kern
High School: 2004 graduate of OTHS
In the Navy: Culinary specialist 1st class, currently stationed at Naval Base Bremerton, near Seattle, Wash.