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O’Malley award winners gain new family members

Washington, D.C. (AFNS) – -- The winners of the 2016 General and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award were recognized before a group of family, friends, coworkers and previous award recipients during a ceremony at the Pentagon March 7, 2017.

O’Malley and his wife Diane were known for their leadership and contributions to Air Force families and the communities surrounding them.

After their passing more than 30 years ago, the O’Malley’s children decided their parents’ efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed; the award was then established.

“There was no award for a couple and how they made a difference in the Air Force,” said Sharon O’Malley-Burg, daughter of the award’s namesakes. “We wanted to give an award to those young enough to still have a future in the Air Force, but senior enough that they have proven they can do what it takes.”

Col. John W. Wagner and his wife, Jennifer, received the award because of their accomplishments while stationed at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, throughout the 2015 calendar year. During that time, Wagner served as commander of the 460th Space Wing – a critical component for national defense with assets operating 24/7 on a no-fail mission.

“They are all about taking care Airmen and families,” said Gen. Stephen Wilson, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff. “They make a difference in people’s lives. It is hard work and it’s a team sport, but they made a huge difference and we can’t thank them enough.”

The Wagners served as mentors during three Air Force Space Command squadron commander and spouse orientation courses, held a military retiree appreciation day for more than 600 veterans in the local area, and hosted community leader and spouse events.

Jennifer’s personal efforts led to $5,000 in scholarships being awarded to families, as well as the delivery of more than 10,000 toys to 500 military and local children.

“That is what this award is about,” O’Malley-Burg said. “You go in and you do your best and you lead with your heart and you hope that you leave everything better than what you found it.”

Wagner said Team Buckley overcame the adversity of infrastructure failures, bringing on a new weapons system, and more while keeping up with their important mission.

“They did the work, they made the sacrifice, they put in the hours, and they overcame obstacles,” he said.

Jennifer added, “Not only were they up for the no-fail mission, but…they took care of each other’s children, they helped each other find jobs or homes. They are an incredible group of people.”

The colonel was presented with a pair of stars worn by General O’Malley while his wife was given a crystal rose to represent the beauty and light of Diane. The gifts signify a bond between the O’Malley family and all the award recipients through their selfless service and sacrifices.

"General and Mrs. O'Malley are a huge inspiration for our Air Force," Wagner said. "To receive this award on behalf of the Airmen at Team Buckley is truly humbling."