Nearly 50 of Fort Stewart’s support volunteers were recognized Thursday with Marne Spirit Awards during the Commanding General’s Installation Volunteer Recognition ceremony at Club Stewart.
A separate ceremony was held Tuesday for more than 120 volunteers at Hunter Army Airfield.
Brig. Gen. Jim Blackburn, the commander of Task Force Marne, said volunteers donate countless hours and energy to support units and agencies that support soldiers and their families.
They don’t do it for money or personal recognition, he said.
He said spouses, soldiers, retirees and teens support the installation’s units as part of Family Readiness Groups and as mayors of on-post housing. They also support Winn Army Community Hospital and medical clinics and especially those agencies that directly support the community, including the Red Cross; Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Child, Youth and School Services; and Army Community Service.
“Today, we’re recognizing those who understood there was a need, stepped forward with a solution then followed through with care,” Blackburn said, echoing the message in the event’s theme, “Hands that serve, hearts that care.” “These volunteers are part of the community, so they understand the needs of the ones they’re serving. … Today is an opportunity to say ‘thank you.’ You’ve made this community a great place to work, live and raise a family.”
Among the volunteers recognized was Red Cross volunteer Karen Bell, who also is a Gold Star Spouse. She understands the role of that Red Cross volunteer from a personal perspective.
Jeffrey Eastlake was recognized for the 20 years he’s given as a volunteer coach for a junior-league bowling team.
Rubi Blancas serves as a volunteer for two Army Community Service-sponsored programs, “Hearts Apart” and “Foreign-born Spouses Support Group.” A native of Mexico, she said she was working on a U.S. Army base in Germany when she met her husband, Master Sgt. Gabriel Montes. Having previously been assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, he wanted to bring his new bride back to Fort Stewart. They’ll celebrate their second anniversary in October.
“Since I got here, I started doing things to get involved in the community,” Blancas said. “I started volunteering with ACS in the area of ‘Hearts Apart’ and ‘Foreign-born Spouses Support Group.’ ‘Hearts Apart’ helps those spouses whose sponsors are (deployed). … We try to give them support (until) their husbands come back. ‘Foreign-born Spouses’ is for people like me. We’re getting accustomed to this country and culture and learning to become American citizens. We try to support each other in that process.”
Following his brief remarks, Blackburn said it was time to “get down to the business of recognizing and awarding volunteers.” He, along with Task Force Marne Command Sgt. Maj. Stanley Varner and Jane Murray, began recognizing volunteers with the Marne Spirit Award created by her husband, Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, the Stewart-Hunter and 3rd ID commander.
The volunteers were called by name and a short description of their volunteer duties was read as they were awarded a 3rd ID coin and certificate. Afterward, a special award was presented to Jane Murray for leading the volunteer program.