At the Academy’s annual volunteer dinner in May, we recognized Shawn McCoy and others for three years of volunteer service in the Academy’s Education Department. This award was punctuated by another honor for McCoy: the receipt of the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal by the United States Armed Forces.
Medals are commonly awarded for accomplishments during duties required as a member of the armed forces. McCoy explains that the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is unique because members of the armed forces can choose to work toward it by performing service for the civilian community. The award recognizes those members of the military who perform “substantial volunteer service to the local community that is sustained, direct, and consequential in nature.” Such volunteer service “must produce tangible results” and “must reflect favorably on the military service and the United States Department of Defense.”
A helicopter mechanic for the United States Marine Corps for 15 years, McCoy decided to volunteer at the Academy so that he could give back to his community while satisfying his personal appetite for learning. Starting in the Birds of Paradise exhibit, McCoy has volunteered in a number of the Academy’s special exhibits. He also has worked as a volunteer educator at Academy festivals such as Bug Fest and Paleopalooza. He has been trained to run the Academy’s invertebrate cart, where visitors can see live insects and learn about their behaviors and adaptations.
McCoy says his favorite part of working in the museum is interacting with the visitors, and it seems that he may be the highlight of some visitors’ days as well. McCoy draws visitors from across the gallery with his engaging descriptions and welcoming demeanor. We take several breaks from our interview so that McCoy can show visitors the skulls we’ve brought out for his photo shoot.
“Shawn exemplifies the impact that our amazing volunteers have on guests inside the museum as well as beyond our walls,” says Mary Bailey, Academy manager of public engagement. “I am intensely proud of the hard work my volunteers do here at the Academy, and I could not be more pleased that Shawn was recognized by the Marines for his role in it.”
The Academy is committed to making a museum visit accessible for members of the United States Armed Services through regular admission discounts. We also participate in the Blue Star Museums free admission program for military families between Memorial and Labor Days. Plan your visit today!
By Mary Alice Hartsock