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Both Air and Army Guard Family of the Year are Awarded Sgt. 1st Class Billie Jo Lorius

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, shakes the hands of the Haugen family as they accept their award for North Dakota Army Guard Family of the Year.

BISMARCK, N.D. - Both the Air and Army Guard Family of the Year were honored today at a volunteer luncheon that took place at the Adjutant General's Symposium on Families at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck. Each year, a family is chosen from each branch of service that has served the military community in an outstanding capacity. The two families were nominated by their peers due to their support of the Guard as well as their activities and volunteer efforts.

Tech. Sgt. Francisco "Frank" Gonzalez and Senior Airman Kelly Gonzalez, of Minot, received Air Guard Family of the Year and Sgt 1st Class Richard and Tess Haugen, of Dickinson, received Army Guard Family of the Year. The Gonzalez family was unable to attend due to participation in the flood fight efforts, but the Haugen family was on hand to receive the award.

Presenting the award was Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general. He said, "These awards are to recognize families that have gone above and beyond. Thank you for all you do for our military. Families are a huge reason why we are able to be successful as an organization."

Frank Gonzalez is currently assigned as the non-commissioned officer in charge of training for the 219th Security Forces Squadron located at Minot Air Force Base. According to the Gonzalez nomination form, "Frank constantly seeks greater responsibilities within the squadron and strives to enhance his already immense professional knowledge base. The family significantly volunteers time and efforts in helping out squadron members during times of need. Numerous examples include moving, snow removal, home repairs and chaperoning field trips for children. This family's selfless service and sacrifices have been instrumental without measure in ensuring the success of a complex and difficult nuclear security mission." Frank and Kelly Gonzalez volunteer numerous hours to help other Airmen and participate in
professional events to enhance the overall image of the Guard.

"I was definitely surprised by the award. For Kelly and I to be recognized for our contribution is not only gratifying, but also humbling because we work with so many amazing Airmen and families," said Tech. Sgt. Francisco Gonzalez.

Commander of 219th SFS, Lt. Col. Tad Schauer, said, "It is important that we recognize our Airmen and their families for their contributions. The fact that the 219th Security Forces Squadron has had a family receive this prestigious award two years in a row speaks volumes about the high caliber of Airmen in our organization. Both Francisco and Kelly are excellent examples of outstanding Hooligans."

Army Guard winner, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Haugen, member of the 816th Engineer Company, and his wife and three children were nominated due to their positive impact on their community and care and concern demonstrated for Soldiers. According to the nomination form, "Richard volunteers for additional duties to include: Suicide Intervention Officer, Casualty Notification Officer, Equal Opportunity Representative as well as teaching "mini-lessons" to local Elementary School students. Joining Richard in demonstrating genuine care and concern is his wife Tess. As the leader of the Family Readiness Group, she has been instrumental in organizing activities for the Soldiers', spouses' and children year-round. Care, concern, devotion and training are all great attributes for one to have. Finding a family where these attributes are shared by all, make them a great choice."

Haugen said he and his family were honored to be recognized. "It means a lot to us. We are in this together. It's all about being part of a great National Guard family," he said.


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This work, Both Air and Army Guard Family of the Year are Awarded, by SFC Billie Jo Lorius, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:03.20.2010

Date Posted:03.20.2010 18:04

Location:BISMARCK, ND, USGlobe

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  • Generosity and devotion to fellow Guardsmen were two of the key attributes displayed by the Air and Army National Guard's 2010 Military Families of the Year, said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general.
  • Apart, the two words ‘army’ and ‘family’ generate strikingly different images. One implies regimented discipline and order; the other brings to mind love and compassion. For U.S. Army soldiers and their loved ones, however, the two words can hardly be separated, as each impacts the other in ways unheard of in most other professions.

These Army families seem to thrive in the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade as the Pegasus brigade is represented by three of the five families who are finalists for the 2012 Fort Bragg Family of the Year.

The Trotter, Miller and Buckhalt Families were recognized by XVIII Airborne Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Daniel Allyn and his wife, Debbie, during the Fort Bragg Family of the Year award ceremony at Fort Bragg, Nov. 6.

“The nominations are a testament to how much the 82nd CAB families were invested during our most recent deployment. Deployments are the times when people can shine and they’re really needed,” said 82nd CAB Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter.

Stanton, his wife Lauri and their two daughters, Sierra, 8, and Hannah, 6, make up one of the 82nd CAB finalist families. Along with the husbands from the other two families, Stanton spent the better half of 2012 deployed to Afghanistan.

During his time overseas, Stanton, of La Palma, Calif., always found time to call home via Skype to talk with Lauri and the girls. He credits this commitment to allot time for each other to their family’s success.

“My hope is that others see that we focus on our family first,” Stanton said. “That is what charges the battery of our family.”

Though there were times when Sierra and Hannah missed their father, Lauri, of Woodbridge, Va., helped the girls to understand the family commitment. 

“I think the girls are learning that what we have in the military is a choice, and with that choice there are some sacrifices that come, but we as a family make that choice.” Lauri said. “When we can remember it really was our choice, it helps to get through some of those less pleasant times, the late hours, deployments and whatever else.” 

The Millers, with the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, were also finalists for the family of the year. Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Miller and his wife Stephanie, of Allentown, Pa., have four children: Kathryn, 15, Julian, 13, Elizabeth, 10, and Abigail, 8. Miller is the chaplain for the 122nd ASB, and has been in the Army for two and a half years.

Although this is his first duty station since joining the Army, Miller and his wife are no strangers to military life.  Miller is a former Marine who served from 1992 to 1996. Serving in her own right, Stephanie has volunteered as a Family Readiness Group Advisor with the 122nd ASB for the past two years.

“Being relatively new to the Army, the Millers bring fresh energy to the 82nd CAB families,” Lauri said.

Eric and his wife consider themselves down-to-earth people with a normal family and life.  They were both very surprised and humbled when they received news they were nominated for the family of the year.

“We were shocked and consider it a huge honor.  We are ‘Team Miller’ and we just want to help where we can,” said Stephanie. “I believe every family is the family of the year.  If you have to walk in the shoes of a military Soldier, spouse or child, you understand how much sacrifice there is.  Parents have to work hard to keep the family together and on track, and kids have to endure the loss of their parent for long periods of time.  I believe military families are a special type of family and they all deserve to be recognized.”

As an Army Chaplain, Eric can share his understanding of family with many Soldiers.

“The key is to have a solid base at home that will help keep things going even when you can’t be there,” Eric said.  “I am blessed to have Stephanie.  She is a strong woman.  She has kept things together and running as normal as possible even when I can’t be here.  My children are strong and understand what it takes for me to do my job.  I could not do what I do without their support and understanding.”

With their years of military service on both sides of the table, the Buckhalts both know what it is like to support and understand a military spouse.

Capt. Allen Buckhalt is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot who serves as the commander for Company B, 2nd Aviation Assault Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. His wife, Maj. (Ret.) Bonnie Buckhalt, leads the company Family Readiness Group. The Buckhalt’s son, Joel, 18, is a member of the National Honor Society and the Varsity Soccer Team at Jack Britton High School. Their daughter, Ava, 4, played a big role helping Bonnie as she packed treats and care packages to send 82nd CAB Troopers during their deployment.

Allen, originally from Miami, believes the values that have strengthened his family have helped him in his role as a commander.

“What I’ve learned from my family I’ve applied to my military family,” Allen said. “Respect, love and taking care of one another are principles that are important to any successful family and team.”
Bonnie, a retired officer who grew up in a military family in Killeen, Texas, has experienced all sides of Army life.

“I have never had a phase of my life where the military hasn’t been a part of it. This whole process has made me reflect on my experience in the military and as a family member. During this time where the Army has deployed pretty often, I have been able to see how the family members must remain close to one another and support other families in the unit.”

As the Family Readiness Group leader for her husband’s company, Bonnie gets to know many of her unit’s family members first hand. This involvement guides Bonnie to understand her own family’s nomination as a depiction of her greater community. 

“It was humbling to be a finalist for the Fort Bragg Family of the Year,” Bonnie said. “We know so many tremendous families and we are honored to represent them.” 

Perhaps it is this pervasive modesty, expressed by the Trotters, Millers and Buckhalts, that makes the Army Family an icon so universally understood – a model with which soldiers and their loved ones so easily identify themselves on a daily basis.

This family identity will serve the 82nd CAB well as the brigade transforms to support the U.S. global response force, reshaping a conventional unit to a rapidly-deployable aviation asset, capable of responding to a wide variety of humanitarian and combat missions around the world with little notice.

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