At its annual Scholarship Luncheon, the Rotary Club of Alexandria and The Alexandria Rotary Foundation featured a speech by local war hero, Navy Captain (Ret) Eugene “Red” McDaniel, and also honored the achievements of two local high school students, awarding them both college scholarships.
CAPT McDaniel was a Naval Aviator on his 81st mission into Vietnam in 1967 when he was shot down by a surface to air missile. He survived the ejection from his A-6 Intruder, but his navigator-bombardier, LT James Kelly Patterson, was never found. What followed for McDaniel was imprisonment and six years of brutal torture in the Hanoi Hilton.
McDaniel ‘s faith was so strong that he became the de facto Chaplain for the prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. “Courage is not the absence of fear,” McDaniel said. “It’s the presence of faith. I clung to the one thing they could not destroy.”
McDaniel was released from prison in North Vietnam in 1973. The Navy recognized his leadership and bravery by awarding him the Navy Cross. He returned to his family and remained with the Navy until his retirement in 1982. In those next several years he commanded the USS Niagara Falls and the USS Lexington, and served as Director of Navy/Marine Corps Liaison to the House of Representatives.
Two of the guests in attendance were the winners of the 2018 Rotary Club of Alexandria Career and Technical Education Scholarship Awards. This program was created in 1991 as the Rotary Club’s commitment to Vocation. It encourages career and workforce development for local, regional and national business communities. The scholarship recipients are Sajelle Avery and Ana Avila. Each recipient will receive a scholarship for $2,500 to use in their education.
Sajelle Avery is a senior at T. C. Williams High School. She is a student in the Advanced Marketing program. She is a member of the National Honor Society, a member of DECA and currently is the T. C. Fashion Club President. Sajelle also participates in track and field, and captains the Majorette Dance Team. In the fall, Sajelle plans to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California.
Ana Avila plans to pursue a career in Construction Management. She attends Hayfield Secondary School where she has completed sequenced courses in the Architectural Drawing Program. She has been a participant in Hayfield’s Architecture Construction and Engineering mentoring program for the past two years. Ana is also a member of the Spanish Honor Society and Hayfield’s College Partnership Program. She has done all of this and maintained a 4.0 plus GPA at Hayfield. In the fall, Ana plans to attend Virginia Tech to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Construction Management.