U.S. Marine 1st Sgt. Daniel Best, a Liberty County native who is deployed to Okinawa, Japan, has earned the prestigious Jerry Coleman Award for his military service and volunteerism efforts to better the communities where he is stationed. This award, named for a World War II and Korean War veteran, honors a Marine Noncommissioned Officer who demonstrates outstanding leadership and unyielding support for the United States Marine Corps and the United States of America.
Best arguably lived up to his surname by being selected from all Marines nominated for this year’s award. Only one non-commissioned Marine, representing the entirety of the military branch, is picked each year with other military branches selecting their own recipients for the Jerry Coleman Award.
Best, a 2004 graduate of Liberty High School, was nominated by his direct supervisor, Major Nicholas Cormier. Best’s most notable contributions to the communities where served was the creation of an English program for street children in Rwanda in East Africa and providing training to police officers in Colombia.
“When I was in Rwanda, my wife and I started the English program for street children. We would do it a couple of days a week,” said Best.
The hope was that, by teaching underprivileged children, other educational opportunities would arise, positively changing the trajectory of their lives.
“The whole intent was to get them ready. We were able to get a couple of these children into boarding schools while we were there,” he said.
In Colombia, Best, who is trained in martial arts, worked with a police agency to create a program that now is incorporated into their training.
Best said these community efforts are all part of being a good Marine and that many Marines perform volunteer work outside of their “day jobs.”
“Being a Marine and being a good person and leader in the community is all connected to me,” he said. “There are opportunities out there and we just have to take advantage of them.”
Best said he was surprised to find out that he was selected as the Marine recipient of the Jerry Coleman Award.
“It is one of those things you hear about. It’s a very prestigious award. Even after I was nominated, I didn’t think I would be picked,” he said.
The prestige of the award certainly hasn’t gone to his head. When asked if he was being treated any differently, Best laughingly said, “That’s not how the Marines work. They are giving me a hard time about it. My family is big on keeping me grounded, too. I still have dirty diapers and dishes to do.”
About the Jerry Coleman Award
In 2016, the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation established the Jerry Coleman Award, intended to recognize a Marine Staff Noncommissioned Officer (SNCO) who possesses outstanding leadership and unyielding support for the United States Marine Corps and the United States of America. Jerry Coleman postponed his baseball career to serve his nation. At the age of 18, he joined the Marine Corps as a Naval Aviation Cadet. In World War II Coleman flew 57 combat missions, and in the Korean War he flew 63 close air support and interdiction strike missions, making him the only major league player to see combat in two wars. Jerry Coleman retired from the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was also selected by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the Ford C. Frick Award recipient as an announcer in 2005. Coleman, despite all the success he had in his life, was most proud of being a Marine.