Leaving a legacy, beginning a tradition

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — If there is one thing you would like people to remember about you when you pass on, what would it be?

Gen. Jerome F. O’Malley and his wife Diane were known for their leadership and contributions to Air Force families and the communities surrounding them.

Gen. O’Malley often told his staff, “You have three priorities: First to yourself, second to your family and third to the Air Force. Unless the first two are in order, the third one can’t be.”

The general often penned birthday cards for those in his command, while Diane focused on family resilience – domestic violence and child care concerns, mil-to-mil couple challenges and single-parent issues.

After their passing 31 years ago, the O’Malleys’ children decided their efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed, so the General and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award was established.

“There was no award for a couple and how they made a difference in the Air Force,” said Sharon O’Malley-Burg, daughter of the award’s namesakes. “We wanted to give an award to those young enough to still have a future in the Air Force, but senior enough that they have proven they can do what it takes.”

The annual award is given to the wing commander and spouse whose contributions to the nation, Air Force and local community best exemplify the selflessness displayed by the O’Malleys.

“It’s a tribute to my parents,” Sharon said. “They have been gone a long time, so for us as a family, this award allows us to define who they are, today. What we are doing is keeping my parents’ memory alive through this award and through all these people who now live up to the O’Malley legacy.”

Now in its 30th year, the award was most recently given to Col. William J. Liquori Jr. and his wife Amy for their exceptional work at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, during a ceremony at the Pentagon May 3.

“Frankly, it was no surprise to learn Bill and Amy were this year’s award recipients,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow. “As my military assistant, I saw his energy and professionalism every day. So, it was no surprise to hear about the great work the Liquori family did at Schriever.”

During Liquori’s command, Schriever Airmen completed 164,000 space and cyber missions and completed a record-setting 674-day space flight with the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

While exceling in mission accomplishment, the Liquori family held a food drive delivering more than 1,400 pounds of food to the community and led efforts to deliver thousands of cookies to Airmen in the dorms during the holidays.

They also served as Air Force ambassadors in their area, hosting more than 500 visitors and engaging in various community functions to strengthen wing awareness and local affiliations.

“We are just the ones who are fortunate enough to accept it on their (the Airmen of Schriever) behalf, and we are really happy to be able to share it with all of them,” Liquori said. “We miss Schriever a lot, and all the people, so this is one of those days where you get to remember back and think about each and every one of them.”

The Liquori family was honored in front of family, friends, co-workers and previous award recipients. Sharon gave Amy a crystal rose to represent the beauty and light of her mother; she presented the colonel with a pair of stars that were worn by her father.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Disbrow presented the Liquoris with a certificate and a portrait of a falcon with a rose stem in its beak which symbolizes both General O’Malley, who led to great heights, and Diane, who guided him with grace.

“It’s humbling to receive those kinds of gifts especially knowing what kind of people they were and how (Diane) was so full of grace and kindness — it’s very meaningful,” Amy said.

“It’s incredibly special to think these are the stars (General O’Malley) wore and to have them as a constant reminder of what it is they stood for and what is important in the Air Force,” Liquori said. “We are humbled to be a part of such an amazing group of people, and to be recognized in the same sentence as the O’Malleys is just amazing.”

The Liquoris are now part of the family, bonded to the previous recipients through their selfless service and sacrifices, while continuing the legacy the O’Malleys left behind.