A Mesa native was awarded the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility Junior Sailor of the Year award.
Machinist Mate Second Class Neil Burgheimer, 26, volunteered 300 hours in 2012 to win the award, which is given to one of the 500 sailors at the shipyard who shows leadership and inspires both sailors and civilians alike.
“I have plenty of time during the day to either sit at home or get out and make a difference in the community,” Burgheimer said.
Most days, he gets off work in the afternoon, Burgheimer said.
“For me, it’s about finding something to do,” he said. “I get out of work at 3 p.m. and I can either go to sleep and don’t do anything, or I can go out and help.”
Burgheimer, who now works as a machinist on a submarine, graduated from East Valley Academy and the East Valley Institute of Technology in 2005.
Many of his volunteer hours come from working at a children’s camp for kids with muscular dystrophy, he said.
“I just want to help,” he said. “Little kids shouldn’t have to sit there and do nothing.”
Instead, at the camp, councilors are paired with a child to help them swim, practice archery and create arts and crafts.
“They just go to town and have a blast and let them forget they have a disease,” he said.
Besides working as a councilor, Burgheimer also volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association to coordinate fundraising events.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have found out about (muscular dystrophy) without my wife,” he said.
Burgheimer met his wife, Chelsey, when they both attended Red Mountain High School. They were married in 2006 and are currently expecting their first child.
“My wife’s brother has MD; he was diagnosed at 8 and now he’s 23,” Burgheimer said of Robert Reed, his brother-in-law. “He plays wheelchair basketball for the Phoenix Suns wheelchair team.”
Burgheimer not only volunteers himself, but as the shipyard’s assistant community service coordinator he also helps fellow sailors volunteer their time outside of work. Last year, he led more than 180 sailors with 28 community service projects, volunteering more than 350 hours of their off-duty time.
The Mesa native strives to be a positive example to children and youth. He also participates in an “Adopt-A-Highway” program for a Hawaiian elementary school and serves as a field trip councilor at a high school.
Beyond serving the wider community, Burgheimer seeks to be a positive force with other sailors. Working as a driver for the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Sailors Against Drunk Driving program, he makes sure his fellow sailors get home safely from a night out.
Looking for a stable job, he enlisted in the United States Navy in 2005.
After recruit training at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., and submarine school at Submarine Base New London, Conn., he was assigned to USS Maryland in Submarine Base Kingsbay, Ga., before arriving to the shipyard in November 2010, said David Tomiyama, a spokesman for the shipyard.
“The economy started going bad,” he said. “I tried finding a job, but I couldn’t. I knew I could get money for college while I was enlisted, or I would have the GI Bill after.”
Currently, he works as a training and administration instructor at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility Resources Department, keeping 3,000 military and civilian personnel up-to-date on the latest qualifications, policies and procedures, Tomiyama said.
“In 2012, Burgheimer facilitated 40 classes with a total 388 combined classroom hours and 579 students,” Tomiyama said in a press release.” He also spent 223 man-hours overhauling the Joint Assembly, Ball Valve Repair & Precision Measuring Equipment lesson plan.”
Soon, Burgheimer plans to apply to officer school to become a commissioned officer.
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