News: 7th Infantry Division expresses gratitude to volunteers
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The 7th Infantry Division held its inaugural 7th Infantry Division Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at French Theater on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nov. 21.
The event recognized soldiers and family members of seven brigades and the Headquarters Support Company who have donated their time to make an impact in the lives of others throughout the South Sound communities.
“We’re here to take a moment to say thanks to those who contribute to the welfare, morale and more importantly, the support of our soldiers and families,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, 7th Infantry Division commander.
Soldiers from seven brigades within 7th ID filled the auditorium in show of support for their volunteers.
The 15 individuals recognized for their volunteer efforts sat in the front rows and received a standing ovation. One by one, they took to the stage as an announcer read a list of their accomplishments.
Several of the nominees for recognition had logged hundreds of volunteer hours or were indispensable supporters of unit Family Readiness Groups.
A few had unique stories, such as Leslie Sorenson from 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, who earned a personal trainer certificate and used it to volunteer to run the brigade Walk/Run to Afghanistan program.
Tonya DePasquale, a volunteer with 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, is a co-leader for a Family Readiness Group in Battery B.
“My co-leader and I have a lot of passion for this,” said DePasquale. “I’ve been in a few FRGs, and I love Army life; I get excited, and along with past experiences, that helps relate to the other spouses. What I try to do when I’m talking to other spouses, I let them know I understand how they’re feeling. That passion drives our FRG.”
Dana Starr, Christina Pride and Kristie Merrill received volunteer recognition from 555th Engineer Brigade. Merrill assisted the FRG for 585th Engineer Company, 864th Engineer Battalion.
“Our battalion was deployed and we had a pregnancy support group with participation of about 50 women,” said Merrill, who also assisted with events such as the Pacemaker Walk to Afghanistan and Soldier Family Food Pantry.
“I’m incredibly honored and surprised with the recognition. Just being able to help other spouses out has been rewarding, especially during the deployment because this was a first experience for many of them.”
The leadership of the 7th Infantry Division wanted to recognize all these special individuals who make a difference every day. Lanza and 7th Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Murphy presented each of the honored volunteers with certificates of appreciation and restaurant gift cards.
“What our volunteers have shown is that you don’t need to wear a uniform to serve; and we want to say thanks for your selfless service,” Lanza said.