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NEWS | July 13, 2015

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution awards citizen soldiers

By Story by Staff Sgt. Joy Dulen 335th Signal Command (Theater)

EAST POINT, Ga. - Each year, the best of Georgia's citizen soldiers receive this coveted award that includes an elaborate gold eagle trophy. Recipients of the 2014 Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) Reserve Components Achievement Awards took center stage here May 14, 2015. 

The AJC is a daily newspaper that annually recognizes one noncommissioned officer (NCO) and one soldier from Georgia-based Army National Guard and Army Reserve units. The winning troops are nominated by their military commands for their achievements throughout the year. 

Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Lindsey and Sgt. Talesia Gordon of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) were the 2014 Army Reserve recipients. The National Guard awardees were Sgt. Samuel Shuler of the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and Spc. John Pettas of the 48th Infantry Brigade. The recipients were honored in an official ceremony that took place at the 335th Signal Command (Theater) headquarters in East Point, Georgia.

The Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Journal both began printing pages in the 1800s. The Atlanta Journal started recognizing soldiers of Georgia reserve components in the early 1970s before both papers merged to become today's AJC in 2001.

"It dates back to the late Vietnam era, as we were preparing to pull out of that conflict," explained Andre Jackson, editorial page editor for The AJC and ceremony speaker. "The awards were begun by the Atlanta Journal as a way to honor Georgia's citizen soldiers who were returning home from a war during a time when the military was not seen positively." 

And they've been going ever since. Jackson himself has been presenting soldiers with awards on behalf of the AJC since 2009. "It was and is a way for the newspaper to say thank you and to recognize the service, dedication, honor and sacrifice of Georgia soldiers."

The awardees beamed as they accepted their bronzed eagle trophies from Jackson and posed with senior military leaders for photos. 

"It's fantastic," said Pettas, a team leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 121st Infantry Regiment. "The relationship between military and media has not always been the best in recent times, and so for (the AJC) to do this is quite a step up."

"I appreciate The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coming to recognize those soldiers who did overachieve," added recently-promoted Gordon, a human resource specialist with the 335th and Atlanta-native. "I'm glad they interact with the military because we do work in the community and we do serve each other."

Jackson said it's the highlight of his year to take part in these awards since he has worked alongside people in his community who have worn the uniform and been in combat. And he enjoys recognizing a deserving soldier.

"I am ecstatic," Gordon said. "I'm so happy because to me, this is one of the biggest awards because I do so much. I volunteer at schools and with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. I'm just an active soldier and person and to be awarded by my community that I grew up in; I mean this is great. It's a great Army day."