A Rusk High School graduate was recently recognized for outstanding military volunteer service during a ceremony aboard the USS Constitution.

Airman Melanie Santos Rangel, a 2020 Rusk High graduate, received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal on July 14 in Boston where she is currently serving in the Navy.

The medal is awarded to service members who perform outstanding volunteer community service of a sustained, direct and consequential nature, according to USS Constitution Public Affairs spokesperson Airman Austin Jean.

Rangel, who has served the Navy for a year and a half, said the USS Constitution is her first duty station, but it took her a little while to get there due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I enlisted in October of 2019 but had to wait to graduate to ship out and then the pandemic hit, so my boot camp experience is different than most,” Rangel said. “I shipped off in September 2020, hit a few bumps along the way because of COVID, and graduated in November 2020.”

Rangel said she joined the military because she wanted to travel, to do something different than the rest of her family and because she wants to earn money to one day give her mother her own house. She also thinks it’s “super cool” that she gets to give tours on the oldest ship in the Navy.“One of my goals before leaving the USS Constitution was to earn my Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. I have enjoyed my time volunteering at different events and meeting some pretty awesome people,” Rangel said. “I am very grateful for the opportunity that my command gives me to be able to volunteer for so many different events.”

Jean said duty aboard the USS Constitution is one of the Navy’s special programs, and all prospective crew members must meet a high standard of sustained excellence and interview to be selected for the assignment. She noted the warship played “a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812.”

“The active-duty Sailors stationed aboard USS Constitution normally provide free tours and offer public visitation to more than 600,000 people each year as they support the ship’s mission of promoting the Navy’s history, maritime heritage and raising awareness of the importance of a sustained naval presence,” Jean said.

USS Constitution was undefeated in battle and captured or destroyed 33 enemy vessels. The ship earned the nickname of Old Ironsides during the War of 1812 after British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull.


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