Greenwich resident Alan Sharkany, recipient of the presidents Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement, speaks to a crowd at Camp Simmons last week afterbeing presented with the award by former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, left.
GREENWICH — For decades, Alan Sharkany Jr. has channeled the same drive and strength that inspired him to join the Marines into helping others prepare themselves to serve their country. And now his efforts have gotten the attention of none other than the president of the United States.
Last Thursday, in a special ceremony outdoors at Camp Simmons, Sharkany, a Greenwich resident, was presented with the president’s Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement for his more than 25 years of training and mentoring aspiring service members through a rigorous non-profit program he runs called BUD/S and Beyond. Several of the program’s graduates were on hand as part of the crowd of more than 50 that came to salute Sharkany.
“I am not here receiving this award, getting these accolades, by virtue of my strengths and skills,” Sharkany said. “It is a gift, a calling that I may have the privilege to lead amazing young men and women. And when I say leadership, I’m talking about my favorite definition of the word, where metaphorically on bended knee, I come and serve these individuals. In light of wearing the uniform no longer, I pour myself into these candidates.”
Saying no one ever accomplishes anything by themselves, Sharkany paid tribute to his family, including his father, Alan Sr., and his children Jade, Amber, Alan and Michael, who he called “four amazing pillars” who sustained him and allowed him to handle anything. Two of his children — Jade and Alan — attended Thursday’s ceremony.
Sharkany was visibly emotional upon receiving the award and spoke passionately about his desire to serve his country and inspire future leaders.
“I was given the tremendous privilege of learning three components that I impart to these candidates today — a tremendous work ethic, the ability to persist in light of unbelievable odds and how to be a leader of men,” he said.
The ceremony was led by Greenwich resident and former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, who serves in the Trump administration as chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Higbie said the award is given out very rarely and only to “people who have a great impact on the community and those around them.”
“A lot of people are recommended for this award and it goes up against a pretty rigorous board of people who decide whether the service provided is worthy of this,” Higbie said. “Alan Sharkany has put over 25,000 hours into this program and there aren’t many people more worthy of this award…This is a chance for me, on behalf of the president, to recognize him for the amazing things he contributed to this community.”
Higbie read a statement that had been authorized by President Donald Trump for the event.
“Rain or shine, through countless hours working to strengthen military candidates, he persevered,” the statement read. “Although this program is primarily for tier-one military candidates, Alan has made it clear the program is open to anyone who wants to properly prepare for a military career. Each year between 50 and 100 candidates work closely with Alan, growing personally, physically and mentally. Not only is he helping these young people prepare for the military. He’s teaching them about leadership and giving back to the communities that raised them.”
Higbie praised the program’s growth through the years to be able to meet the high demands placed on candidates for all branches of the service. The program, which was initially once a week for conditioning and mentoring of those who wanted to be Marines or in the special forces, meets twice a week and calls for a 12 to 15 hour weekly commitment.
More information about the program is online at https://www.facebook.com/budsbeyond and at www.instagram.com/budsbeyond.
The crowd included State Reps. Michael Bocchino (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st) as well as Chief of Police James Heavey and First Selectman Peter Tesei, who personally thanked Sharkany for his work.
“You are an inspiration to young people to take up the call of service,” Tesei told Sharkany. “For that we are eternally grateful, proud and respectful.”
Several of the other mentors who work in the program with Sharkany were also in attendance and he called them up to share the moment with him. He also shared the honor with the current and former members of the program and said it was their dreams and dedication that continued to inspire him.
“They could go on and be a success in anything they choose, in the business world or anywhere, but they set that aside and choose to commit their heart and their time and a part of their life for this great country,” Sharkany said.