Volunteerism and politics..

25 04 2011

I had the honor for being nominated for and award last Friday by my husband’s Battalion Commander. It was the Fort Jackson Volunteer of the Year Award. I sat there in awe. Many family members were nominated. Many service men and women were too.  They even had a category for retired military as well. To hear the accomplishments of the many people, who find value in helping others, warmed my heart.  Lets face it, we live during times were poverty has become more prevalent with each passing generation. Catastrophic events take place and completely reshape societies. Japan a once thriving civilized nation,  became a third world country in a matter of minutes. More people will suffer and more people will die as time moves on.

Despite all the gloom and doom that surrounds us, we have hope. We see a living God in the actions of others. Not many individuals feel the call to volunteer. Websters New World College Dictionary, Third Edition, 1998, defines the word volunteer as follows: “1. a person who chooses freely to do or offer to do something 2. a person who chooses freely to enter naval or military service, without being compelled to do so by law: opposed to conscript, draftee.” I find it especially heartwarming that a military spouse would give more of themselves when military families sacrifice so much all ready. It really shows the depth of a person character when they volunteer.

A military spouse is expected to maintain a level of decorum depending on their husbands rank. A military spouse and their children constantly rely on the fact that their spouses job comes first. This means PT in the morning, which starts at 6am and continues on to a lengthy day ending luckily by 6pm. A military spouse must be continually able to handle change.  People do not adjust to change well at all and if you do not adapt in the military to change you become one of the high numbers of divorced families. They are expected to pick up every 2-3 years an relocate their family. They must find new schools, new doctors, a new house, and a brand new support network upon arrival. There is no time for delay. A military spouses career is on hold until the kids are in school. This can be an ego bruiser to say the least. To know you are the sole reliable provider for their children can be overwhelming at best. You will receive very little physical help from your military member. It is a given. How many spouses expect their careers to be on hold and their lives to solely follow the needs of the army?  Deployments are another concern. What will my spouse be like when he returns? Will we be able to readjust? How will he adjust with the children?  Just when you readjust to him/her being back the family has to move and readjust again.  The most distressing part of being a military spouse is the reality that your best friend may not only have to go to war but may not ever come back. How do you pick up the pieces from there?

I was in awe at the number of spouses both male and female that went above the call of their everyday lives and gave even more by volunteering in army programs.  I was in awe of the number of volunteer hours dedicated to military families. Thank you for all you do military volunteers.

I could not help but wonder though, as listened to each persons biography, how the selection process was organized. I reviewed the newspaper article on the volunteer ceremony. The Fort Jackson Leader did a great job covering it.  What concerned me though is how much politics played in the selection process. So often I find these types of awards based upon a personality contest.  I taught for several years, as well as maintained a membership in a sorority. Who you know and what is mist visible usually wins.  Like everything else in the military, I am sure they did a good job trying to keep this non personal. Did I really have a chance? I would like to know.  I wondered if volunteering off post was considered a part of the selections process as well. I was one of those spouses who volunteer heavily off post. I did volunteer on post too,  I could not help but feel  that everything I touched off post was not really considered. This became evident when the categories for each volunteer was listed based on time. There was one for two years and longer. I also paused when  the announcer mentioned offhandedly that  volunteers for the award were nominated based on their contributions off post. She then went back to the microphone as in after thought and said off post too.  With out sounding like a sore looser, this did hurt my feelings.  Several people through out the morning were overwhelmed at the things I volunteered for. This has been a 3 year venture on many projects. One in particular required me to approach several  of the military leadership in Washington DC.

Despite this, I am glad for  all the winners. It wonderful for the soul to be acknowledged for all you do for others. Sometimes though, you barely scratch the surface of a person when you equate what they do to only an award. Other than the post commander, only 5 other people know how tirelessly, I have worked to see postive changes come about for the military in Columbia as well as the people in South Carolina. We purchased a house that has a bill  of $30k for foundation problems while only being 3 years old. I have combed the halls of the capital to garner support. Walked door to door in a neighborhood that is full of military to try to get involvement in our house issues as well as our HOA problems. I started a neighborhood watch and used that to bring a neighborhood experiencing weekly crime together for the benefit of all.  Most importantly though,after three years, of tireless talking, walking, writing, and meeting we have legislation regulating HOAS in a judicial subcommittee.  This was something not mentioned in my biography.

I could not have done this alone. My neighbor Rahkeen was the man who lite the proverbial fire on a smoldering flame. After loosing a baby, buying a house during my hubbys deployment, I was exhausted to say the least.  He inspired and penned the booklets that were necessary to get us to this point.He helped me find my voice while I helped him find a his.  Not only have we helped each other through our home but we formed a wonderful friendship. Our families have become closer than I ever could have imagined. I admire his Wife.  She is an exceptionally strong woman.  Danesha has become another inspiration for me as well.  Dealing with a husband who has had numerous internal war injuries is not easy. She reached out and asked for help. I was honored she asked me.  Thanks be to God she trusted and cared enough to recognize she needed it. Thanks be to God, I was here too. Thanks be to God for the closeness of our families. Thanks be to God for placing them in our path.

The Silent Warriors are the ones who help no matter what. Who see a need and fill a need. They do not do it for a shiny plaque or medal. They do not do it because they want to hear thank you. They do it because if they don’t then who will? To all those volunteers who were not mentioned. Thank you. To Rahkeem, Thank you.Most of all to my family, I love you and you are the reason I do what I do. I don’t need an award. I just need my family.

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