Port Angeles native feted in D.C. as Marine of the Year
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From left: Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Port Angeles native glittered brightly among the stars when he was honored at the USO Gala in Washington, D.C., an event that included some of the highest-ranking members of the military and Congress, as well as entertainment and sports celebrities.

Marine Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge, 24, received the USO Marine of the Year award from Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. at the ceremony, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey also on stage in a hotel ballroom Friday night.

Wooldridge, a 2006 graduate of Port Angeles High School, is the son of Guy and Tammy Wooldridge of Port Angeles.

After high school, he joined the Marines and was deployed to Afghanistan.

As a vehicle commander, Wooldridge exposed himself to enemy fire and destroyed enemy machine-gun positions during one mission.

In another, he led a successful attack to thwart an enemy ambush.

For his actions during the 2010 ambush, Wooldridge was awarded the Navy Cross in May.

Wooldridge and the story of his actions that resulted in the Navy Cross are prominently featured in a 12-minute 2012 Marine Corps birthday video on the Marine Corps website, www.marines.mil.

The United Service Organization honorees were treated to a performance by singer Jordin Sparks, an “American Idol” winner who toured overseas with the USO.

Comedian Robin Williams recorded a video congratulating the honorees, said USO spokeswoman Gayle Fishel.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Kellen Winslow Sr., retired San Diego Chargers tight end and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, also appeared on stage, Fishel said.

The honorees from the six military services — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and the National Guard — as well as the USO Volunteer of the Year and Spirit of the USO awards also were escorted to formal lunch­eons over the weekend, including tours of the White House and Pentagon.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 05. 2012 6:12PM
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