Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Volunteers recognized at brigade ceremony

By Sgt. Chris McCann

When a Soldier is deployed and his daughter has her tonsils taken out, who brings a meal for the Family? Who can a spouse new to the area turn to when his wife is training in the field and he needs to get to the commissary? There is no military occupational specialty for the myriad little things that need to be done.
These acts of kindness are done by volunteers – spouses and sometimes Soldiers – who give their free time to help others.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team held a ceremony May 8, honoring more than 100 volunteers who helped the brigade through its recent 15-month deployment and the reset process, at the Commons on Fort Drum.
“So much could not be done without volunteers,” said Col. David Miller, commander of the 2nd BCT. “Their work really affects us. There isn’t much that happens that doesn’t have the touch of a volunteer.”
He said that amid the changes going on in the brigade as Soldiers change duty stations, the efforts of volunteers offer stability.
“They did an outstanding job throughout the brigade,” Miller said.
Command Sergeant Major Clinton Reiss, senior enlisted Soldier with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, echoed that sentiment.
“Volunteers are invaluable to us. Soldiers couldn’t feel safe training unless they knew things were taken care of at home – and that’s what volunteers do,” said Reiss.
Michelle Vargas was one of those recognized for her efforts. Her husband, Capt. Joe Vargas, commanded Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-89, and then took command of Trp. D. In both cases, Michelle led the troops’ Family Readiness Groups.
“We’d take meals when a spouse or a child had surgery; if someone needed a ride, we’d do that too,” she said. She thought that the ceremony was a nice recognition of the efforts of the volunteers.
“I’m glad to see that they know we’re here, and that they’re recognizing what we do,” Michelle added.
Tanya Manns’ husband, Maj. Mark Manns, serves as the executive officer for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. Tanya was one of three women honored with the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award for excellence in volunteer work.
“The company FRG leaders did so much – without them, there’s no way I’d be here today,” said Tanya. “During the deployment, I was advising Families. We held a back-to-school bash, an Easter-egg hunt, and Christmas activities, for example. Anytime there was a death, we’d visit the Family and bring a meal, and try to comfort them. We also sent a memorial package with a stained-glass yellow star, a memory box engraved with the Soldier’s name and a card, and let them know we were here for them.”
She said she felt that she hadn’t earned the award, and that others did more.
“The company FRG leaders are so amazing, and they do so much. But I’m very appreciative of this,” she said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion said that the most important thing that volunteer work had done was to build a strong battalion team.
“They built an integrated team, and brought in all the new families as other volunteers departed due to change of station or the end of their contracts. They’re filling the team with new volunteers that make our strong organization just that much stronger.”

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