JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Spc. Cody Peckham has only been in the military for two years. However, in the short time since Peckham arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he has distinguished himself above his peers through his active volunteer service to the JBLM community, especially the city of University Place, Wash.
“I was in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts growing up and I did a lot of volunteer work with them,” Peckham, a native of Pendleton, Ind., explained. “I just became accustomed to doing something to help the community on my weekends.”
Peckham never earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout because he moved before he could complete the community project required to reach the rank, but he planned to build handicapped-accessible ramps for local businesses in Clayton, Ind.
Shortly after graduating from Pendleton Heights High School in 2011, Peckham volunteered to put his life on the line in the military. After completing advanced individual training at Fort Rucker, Ala., the young soldier was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Soon after arriving at his new duty station, Peckham volunteered to assist the unit and its partnered community of University Place.
In November 2011, Peckham was mentioned in an article covering the 21st annual “Make a Difference Day.” Peckham, then a private, was quoted as saying “It’s not every day you see yourself making a difference.”
Since then, the young soldier continued to volunteer his time and labor to the local community. Peckham participated in every volunteer opportunity his unit offered, including activities such as the restoration of two different parks for two different “Make a Difference Day” events, reading to children in the University Place library, and serving as a judge in a middle school science fair.
Peckham was recently sent to the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in an inter-brigade transfer, but he is still well-remembered at the 16th CAB headquarters.
“You could always count on Spc. Peckham to show up to every community outreach event we did,” said Cpt. Deborah Chen, Peckham’s former company commander at HHC, 16th CAB.
“It got to the point where I didn’t need to look for volunteer work; they’d come to me and ask if I’d help, so I’d say yes,” Peckham said.
Peckham helped his former company at HHC, 16th CAB immensely during its 2013 I Corps command inspection. When the company needed a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) officer to ensure the company’s CRBN assets were ready for inspection, they turned to Peckham. Despite the additional duty being outside the scope of his job description and above his pay-grade, Peckham worked countless overtime hours to fix deficiencies. Ultimately, the company earned a commendable rating in the inspection and Peckham earned by-name recognition from the Corps inspector.
But Peckham doesn’t just help out with his unit; he also volunteers on his own initiative, assisting the less-fortunate in his spare time.
“Helping the homeless is what always stays on my mind,” Peckham said, and went on to say he’s assisted with canned food drives for homeless shelters and been a server in soup kitchens. “You really get to learn a lot about people when you help the homeless. Everybody has a different story to tell and I like listening to every single one of them.”
Because of his exceptional military performance and volunteer work, Peckham was selected as I Corps’ nominee for the American Legion Spirit of Service Award, an award given by the American Legion every year to the soldier, airman, sailor, and Marine who best exemplify the spirit of service.
“I’ve never sought out recognition for what I do,” Peckham said. “I feel undeserving. To be selected out of all the people out here… that’s a lot to put on somebody. I can only think of one positive outcome for getting this award.”
As he sat and thought of his volunteer accomplishments it occurred to him.
“If I get the award, maybe more people will ask me to do volunteer work,” Peckham said hopefully.