This week has been Volunteer Week everywhere. It's the first time in many years that I haven't been so involved in the community that I wasn't helping plan something or attending numerous events. Last year the only way I can describe Volunteer Week was pure insanity.
Out of all the years I have been involved in volunteering, last year was special. It wasn't because of what I did or what I was awarded, it was because of the people involved. Thursday night was the Installation Volunteer of the Year ceremony at Hood and I found myself reflecting back on last year. I never really wrote about that night because I felt it would be bragging so I just randomly mentioned it along with some other things that were going on in my life at the time.
As I sat thinking about last year and this amazing time in my life I don't think about the actual award but the people I got to share that moment with. It's funny because until that time many people had not really seen me become overly emotional so some were surprised at my reaction when my name was read as the 2009 Volunteer of the Year. First off, I was totally shocked to hear my name! People asked me over the following days if I really was so surprised...well yeah..I was! I couldn't believe it and almost broke into the ugly cry. But the emotions weren't just about the award, let me try to explain. Kevin was deployed. He seems to always miss out on some big things in our lives. Not his fault, just the reality of this lifestyle. So as I was listening to the Soldier singing "One Moment in Time", my mind and heart were missing him. I was looking at my boys who were my guests for the night and oh how my heart ached when I saw how grown they looked in their white shirts and ties. How well behaved they were at this rather classy event. I was thinking at how much their daddy was missing and really missing him. Then I started to think about Bryant and Jose and Nita. That day was the 3 year "angel-versary" of Jose and Bryant being killed in Iraq. So as the woman finished up her song, I had gotten myself wrapped up into quite a web of emotions. As they called up the volunteers of merit, I was so happy since one was a lady I respect so much and has been such an example to me (and one of my AFTB peeps). The other lady I didn't know (she is now this year's VOY).
When they called my name, I don't even think I moved. My kids were staring at me. My friend Diane was looking at me and smiling. I just heard this thundering applause and finally after what felt like FOREVER, it clicked in my head and I finally moved to the stage with my 3 boys. It really was an awesome experience, the only thing that could have made it better was if Kevin had been there.
It was such an exhilarating experience. While I was in shock that I had received this amazing award, I was so humbled at the congratulations I received from people. People I didn't know well who told me it was well deserved. Having it presented by two people who I respect so much and their amazing wives. (LTG Lynch and CSM Ciotola). And to be there with the people I call my family (so many of my AFTB sisters).
Like many people, I don't volunteer for the recognition or the awards, so this was somewhat overwhelming. When I think about that night, I think about the people who got me there. The amazing examples of Spouses who mentored me and taught me how to support my husband and his Soldiers. Those who gave tirelessly of themselves to help empower others.
I also think of the example I want to set for my kids. And I appreciate that everyone there knew how important my family is to me and told me to take my kids up there with me to share in this moment.
We left Fort Hood 6 months ago and I have never missed a place the way I miss Fort Hood. And the reason is because of the relationships I built through volunteering. It's bigger than networking, it's lifelong bonds that can't be broken. I don't have to speak to them everyday to know that they still have my back even though I'm not there and I hope they know I still have theirs.
Receiving the Volunteer of the Year award at the largest Army installation is pretty awesome. But it's not as awesome or rewarding as the relationships built with the people I met through volunteering. When I look at my awards on the wall, the reflections of my friends are what stare back at me, the good times, the bad times and the love that binds us all together.