August 3, 2012
By Reginald Rogers/Paraglide
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 30 volunteers from various agencies across post received recognition Thursday during the quarterly Iron Mike Volunteer Awards in the Rhodes Ballroom at the Fort Bragg Club.
Julie McRee received the Gold Star Volunteer Award for contributing more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time to various organizations around Fort Bragg.
"It's humbling, very humbling, especially when you (are) among so many of these volunteers who give so much to this installation," she said, following the ceremony which also recognized Silver and Bronze Star award winners. "This was kind of a surprise because I did not know I was receiving this award today."
The Gold Star Award is one of three progressive awards given to volunteers at Fort Bragg.
"I'm still in shock a little bit and very humble and embarrassed because I don't ever want to take away from the other volunteers and spouses within all the units," McRee said.
McRee is the wife of Col. Chad McRee, director of Fort Bragg's Directorate of Emergency Services. She praised the post's volunteer program for their efforts in recognizing those who participate and provide a valuable service to the installation.
"I think that Fort Bragg has a wonderful volunteer program. They are very progressive and they try to entice but also promote those volunteers to turn in those hours, so they can, not only be recognized, but it also paints a great picture for Fort Bragg of what these volunteers contribute to the Soldiers, the Families and the mission here," said McRee, an Texas native.
"To be a part of this community is to volunteer. Assert yourself, not only in your units but this gives you such a sense of camaraderie and community when you are part of it. You learn so much and the friendships that you gain are everlasting," she said.
Four Bronze Star awards and two Silver Star awards were also given out at the event.
"Volunteering is a priceless job," explained Jackie Burden, ACS volunteer coordinator, who also serves a volunteer. "There's no money that can fulfill the happiness that one gets from volunteering." She said their doors are open for others who wish to become volunteers at Fort Bragg.
"Most of the volunteers that we get, come to us looking for volunteer opportunities. They want to help the Families and most of them want to do something to support the Soldiers and the Families. They have a passion for volunteering and they just want to put a hand in wherever they can," said Alice Stephens, Army volunteer coordinator, who oversees the volunteer program for Fort Bragg. "Even if it's just preparing meals and making beds for the Soldiers, whatever they can do to help, they make themselves available," Stephens added.
Nancy Clark, one of the Silver Star awardees at the ceremony, contributed more than 700 volunteer hours to various organizations on the installation. She said she was especially proud of the award, which was given to her from ACS.
Clark volunteers at numerous agencies, including the Soldier Support Center, ASYMCA, Girls Scouts of the United States and the local food bank.
"It's my full-time job," Stephens said of volunteering. "Jackie and Alice have put together the best programs of any base that we've been to so far. I was in the (Army) myself, so coming out of the Army and (being a) member of the spouse team is really different. But they have these classes called AITB classes and they instruct you on how to become a spouse, how to volunteer and how to find your way around the area. They do orientation tours and it's like finding new best friends."
Stephens said the awards ceremony provides an opportunity for her office and the ACS office to meet many of the volunteers.
One of those volunteers was Kendra Stewart, who has been at Fort Bragg for six years.
"I get super excited and happy when other Families are happy from the volunteer things that I do and it puts smiles on other peoples faces," Stewart said.
"(Their interest in volunteering) is wonderful," Stephens said.
She said it makes her feel good because most of them don't know that they're being nominated or that they're going to receive the award until they get the invitation.
Stephens added that there are a lot of repeat volunteers on Fort Bragg.
"Volunteering is the way that these Families give back to the military. The military gives so much to us and offers a lot to us as military Families, so volunteering is a way for us to give back to the community," Burden explained.
"If you appreciate and recognize your volunteers, they will keep coming back."