By Gene Rector
TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE - It was a brief, plane-side encounter for Melissa Rosa of Warner Robins, but it was 12 years in the making.
Rosa, 24, the reigning Miss Macon, received the Volunteer Service Award to the United States from President Bush on Tuesday immediately following the chief executive's late-afternoon arrival at Robins Air Force Base.
"It was an absolute honor," Rosa said after the president's departure to a Macon fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Mac Collins. "It was exciting for the president of the United States to wave to me as he was walking down the stairs. I was very honored to receive the award."
Rosa is one of more than 500 individuals to receive the award since it was enacted in March of 2002 following Bush's call on all Americans to make a difference in their communities through volunteer service.
Rosa has been active with a number of community organizations, particularly during her high school days at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon and later at the University of Georgia.
She is currently the spokeswoman for Hands on Macon, an affiliate of Hands on Georgia, a statewide agency encouraging community support through volunteer involvement. Rosa has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. She also began Girl Scout programs in two Athens middle schools and assisted the Houston County Volunteer Clinic in Warner Robins.
The Air Force second lieutenant is currently a second-year medical student at Mercer University. "I'm on reserve status," Rosa said. "Once I graduate from medical school and finish with residency, I'll go on active duty and give the Air Force four years." She plans to specialize in emergency medicine or pediatrics.
Rosa's father, Nelson, was in the plane-side audience. The retired Air Force recruiter said he was very proud of her.
"She's been volunteering since she was 12 years old," he said. "She's been working very hard. We're extremely proud that she received the award, but she's earned it."
Copyright (c) 2006 The Macon Telegraph