407th MI named Volunteer Unit of the Year
By SFC Sheryl L. Lawry 407th Military Intelligence Company | Hawaii Weekly | 23 May 08
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — It can be difficult and emotional. It involves personal sacrifice. It requires a dedication to and respect for others. It lives off of selfless service. Those who embrace it display great honor and integrity.
What is it? Volunteering.
The Soldiers and Family members from the 407th Military Intelligence (MI) Company are one group of people who typify this view of volunteering. Their efforts to make the local community of Honolulu a better and more comfortable place for those less fortunate have earned them a distinction they can truly be proud of – being named the 2008 U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command Volunteer Unit of the Year.
Commanded by Capt. Kenneth Kondo, the 407th belongs to the 732nd MI Battalion, 500th MI Brigade. Kondo believes that volunteering in the local community is vital to growth as an individual, and helps people gain a better understanding of outside cultures — cultures we might otherwise never encounter if volunteering was absent from life.
“Volunteering provides an opportunity for us to see our world from a different perspective, gain exposure to new situations, and make a difference in other people’s lives,” said Kondo. “The biggest rewards are incorporeal; putting time and energy into something bigger than yourself, expanding your horizons through exposure to people from different backgrounds, and exploring new interests beyond your normal comfort zone.”
Some of the many activities that pushed the 407th outside its normal comfort zone during the past year were holding car washes to raise funds for food and supplies, which were used when the 407th prepared, cooked and served more than 300 residents of the Kakaako Homeless Shelter for Christmas and Good Friday.
Also, the unit adopted a busy two-mile stretch of Kunia Road as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program and cleans up the roadway once a quarter.
The 407th put in more than 690 volunteer hours, some of which were spent helping local veterans at a Veterans Affairs center.
“We [were] grateful for [the Soldiers’ and Family members’] willingness to go beyond the call of duty and provide unselfish warmth, hope and love to our less fortunate folks,” said Kapua Tani, a service coordinator with the organization “Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope,” or H5, about the volunteer work the 407th provided at Christmas and during Good Friday, April 21.
“We hope we can continue our friendship and do more wonderful things together,” she added.
The 407th MI commander hopes that volunteering helps his Soldiers grow and develop, but the Soldiers look at volunteering on a more basic level: it’s simply fun to do.
“I enjoy doing it,” said Pfc. Melissa Ferido, a linguist in the 407th, who further explained that when she sees the looks of appreciation on the faces of the people she is serving, it’s that experience that she loves the most.
“They realize there are good people still here on earth,” Ferido added.
When Soldiers in the unit were told of their nomination and subsequent award, their feelings were unanimous.
“Nobody did it for an award,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Sawyer, a platoon sergeant.
Echoing Sawyer’s sentiments, Spc. David Thomas, who is also a linguist, said, “Volunteering isn’t about an award you receive. It’s about the people you help.”
Those are declarations sure to make their commander proud.