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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Ceremony Honors Territory's Favorite Daughters and Sons

Senate Ceremony Honors Territory's Favorite Daughters and Sons

Jan. 7, 2008 — In one of its last public acts, the 27th legislature of the Virgin Islands on Wednesday lauded individual Virgin Islanders and organizations with the territory's highest honors.
"It is through these individuals that we are able to enjoy our liberties," said Master of Ceremonies Karl Callwood, who works in the office of the majority leader.
The Legislature presented two medals of honor, the highest honor the territory can bestow. Cast in 24-carat gold, the medals feature the V.I. crest, and were first authorized by the 18th legislature in 1954.
The first medal of honor given Wednesday went to the family of Army Staff Sgt Kendall Thomas, who died in 2004 in battle in Baghdad. Thomas egan his 17-year military career after training in the JROTC at Charlotte Amalie High School.
Thomas' brother, Kenval Thomas, accepted the medal on behalf of the family, and said that he intends to send it to his brother's daughters in Germany to pass down through the family as an heirloom. Kendall Thomas also received the Bronze Star for meritorious service.
Also receiving the medal of honor was the Virgin Islands' only Olympic medalist, sailor Peter Holmberg, who received a silver medal for Finn class sailing in 1988. Holmberg was praised not only for his numerous international sailing accomplishments, which have taken him and the reputation of V.I. sailors around the world, but also for teaching many young Virgin Islanders how to swim and sail.
Holmberg dedicated the medal to his mother, Louise, who attended the ceremony with him. Louise Holmberg asked her son if the medal made up for not getting gold in the Olympics.
"The Olympics wouldn't give me the gold, but my country did," her son said, proudly showing off the shiny medal in its glass-and-wood case.
Sen. Louis Patrick Hill sponsored the resolution awarding the medal to Holmberg.
"Peter Holmberg believed that neither economic reasons nor social status should separate a Virgin Islander from the enjoyment or the opportunities from being united with the sea or the sport of sailing," Hill read from the resolution.
The Legislature also presented a plaque posthumously to V.I. Police Officer Steven Alexis Hodge, who served in the department's motorcycle division, and after whom the department's traffic division is named. Hodge dedicated his short life to serving and protecting the people of the Virgin Islands, said Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, who sponsored the resolution.
The resolution noted Hodge's long interest in police work, starting as a volunteer on the phones and running errands for the department. It also noted his accomplishments as a musician and his advocacy for establishing music arts as an integral part of the University of the Virgin Islands.
"He really loved being a policeman," Malone said. "We need a lot more of those in our community who are in love with the job, not the money. He was an excellent officer that commanded respect because of the way he conducted himself."
The V.I. Salvation Army was commended with a commemorative plaque for its 90 years of service to the territory. In 1917 the group unfurled its flag for the first time in the Virgin Islands, Sen. Usie R. Richards read from the resolution.
Despite all it has done for the territory, the Salvation Army has overcome a good deal of adversity in the Virgin Islands. The "Salvationists" often got ridiculed and stoned, and had their hall destroyed by conservative religious groups in the early stages of their work here, according to the resolution.
In 1974, torrential rains flooded the group's headquarters, yet the Salvationists took to the streets, serving coffee and sandwiches to victims and rescue workers. Today the group continues to serve the community with food and clothing distribution, transportation for school children and child care for those who need it.
"I don't know what a lot of people would do without the V.I. Salvation Army," Callwood said.
The Senate also presented a plaque to commend 20 years of community-service work by the St. Thomas Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The sorority works to provide local and international communities with economic and educational support, advocate for political involvement, and promote physical and mental health awareness, according to the resolution read by Malone.
Locally the group sponsors programs for female high school students promoting leadership, scholastic interests and strengthening self-esteem, as well as its Betty Shabazz Academy and Little Miss Delta, which raise funds for scholarship. The group also participates in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and makes annual donations to Sea View Nursing Home and the Family Resource Center.
The Senate presented a plaque to the 2007 Latin American Caribbean Junior League baseball teams, which triumphed over an entire region of baseball powerhouse countries such as Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to bring the championship back to the Virgin Islands.
Senator Carlton "Ital" Dowe, who sponsored the resolution, noted the disparity in size between the Virgin Islands and the competing countries.
The plaque was accepted by coach and manager Vince Roberts and coach Shawn Dowe. The biggest win, Roberts said, was beating the Dominican Republic in Panama.
"The score was 9-7," he said with a big smile.
About 500 boys ages 3 to 18 play Little League ball in the Virgin Islands, Roberts said following the ceremony.
Dowe noted that many of the winning teams started playing baseball together in the Pee Wee League, then went on to Little League and to attend CAHS, Ivanna Eudora Kean and some private schools.
Other senators attending Wednesday's ceremony included Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Liston A. Davis, Celestino A. White, Carmen M. Wesselhoft and Ronald E. Russell.
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