Keynote speaker Rear Adm. Michael J. Steffen is a native of Bedford, Virginia, and a 1992 graduate of Virginia Tech. He was commissioned through the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in conjunction with the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program and designated a naval aviator in 1994. He also holds a Master of Science in Global Business Leadership from the University of San Diego.
His sea duty tours include serving with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS-4) “Black Knights”, deploying twice with Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW 14) aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), along with four combat deployments conducting special operations in Iraq with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 4 (HCS-4) “Redwolves” and HCS-5 “Firehawks” in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steffen’s shore tours included the east coast HS Wing Weapons School as an instructor pilot and the FLIR/Hellfire weapons system subject matter expert, as well as serving on the staffs of Helicopter Wing Reserve, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Naval Air Forces Reserve.
His command tours include the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 60 (HSL-60) “Jaguars” in Jacksonville, Florida, the Maritime Support Wing, based in Coronado, California, and Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. He has flown over 125 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and accumulated nearly 3,000 hours of flight time with over 1,000 hours of night vision goggle time. His previous flag assignment was as commandant, Naval District Washington. Steffen’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Air Medal Single Action with Combat “V” (two awards), Air Medal Strike/Flight (eight awards), along with other numerous campaign and unit awards.
The Memorial welcomes the Honorable Winsome Earle-Sears, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to the Memorial Day commemoration event. Earle-Sears, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, immigrated to the United States at the age of six. She is proud to have served in the United States Marine Corps. In addition to her various appointments, she has served as the Vice President of the Virginia State Board of Education; and as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Census Bureau, as co-chair of the African American Committee; and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Earle-Sears was first elected in 2002 to a majority Black House of Delegates district, a first for a Republican in Virginia since 1865. She is the first female Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the first Black female elected to statewide office.