The Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) and the St. Louis Rotary Club have presented their second annual “Reverend Melvin E. Witt Memorial Award” in honor of the longtime Air Force chaplain who directed LCMS World Relief for 15 years.
The first award was given posthumously to Witt’s family at the MAC’s Veterans Day luncheon in 2016. This year it was presented Nov. 9 to Major (Ret.) Frank Tucker, U.S. Army Reserve. Tucker is not an LCMS member.
The award is given “to individuals who represent [Witt’s] lifetime commitment of service to the community and his dedication to our nation’s veterans,” according to the plaque of winners.
Tucker served 32 years with the Army Reserve, first in public affairs where he handled external media relations, internal publications and community relations. He also was a Human Relations specialist and supervisory staff administrator over 75 full-time and 1,000-plus Reserve soldiers.
He retired in 2005 but continues to serve as vice-president of Public Affairs for the St. Louis Gateway Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, publicity officer of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and public affairs officer of the 102nd ARCOM Association.
The Witt Award proclamation for Tucker notes his “longtime record of dedicated service to members of the military and veterans,” his “steadfast volunteer work to support veterans and veteran organizations in a public affairs capacity,” his “outstanding journalistic and photographic skills [that] have significantly influenced the public’s positive perception of the military and the role of veterans in serving our country and protecting our freedoms” and his “devotion to history [that] has kept alive the stories of our veterans and the sacrifices they made to preserve our country.”
Witt, who died April 30, 2016, at age 89, served as an Air Force chaplain for 21 years, with assignments both stateside and overseas — including two tours of duty in Japan, a 30-month tour in Libya and 13 months in Vietnam. U.S. assignments included Air Force bases in Tennessee, California, Texas, Alabama, Virginia and Nebraska.
In 1972 he retired from Strategic Air Command headquarters with the rank of colonel to become director of LCMS World Relief, traveling to at least 33 countries — from Argentina to Zambia — on behalf of the Synod’s human-care and development ministry.
The Witt Memorial Award notes his “substantial leadership” to MAC members as a member of the Board of Governors (2003-06) and through the establishment of the MAC Forever Young Club, which he served as president for two terms, as well as “countless acts of support through his athletic activities and daily interactions with fellow members. … His friendship and devotion to others endeared him to all.”
MAC Governor and Brigadier General (Ret.) Tracy Beckette, who helped establish the memorial award, said Witt “symbolized what [the MAC] would want in any great member,” particularly as his membership related to the military. “He was always our chaplain” for events, leading prayer and benediction, and “was always available and supportive of our activities.”