Volunteer of Distinction helps new spouses ‘get it’

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

***image1***Nancy Sawyer worked for free this year to help new Army spouses understand military life, checked on family members while their spouses were deployed, and prepared meals and provided transportation for wounded Soldiers.

Mrs. Sawyer said she received more than money could buy after she was named the 2006 U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Volunteer of Distinction.
“I feel happy. I feel satisfied. I feel like I helped somebody,” she said.

The garrison also recognized 25 Volunteers of Excellence during its Volunteer Recognition Ceremony May 24 at the Armstrong Community Club on Vogelweh Housing. The Landstuhl TORCH Youth Leadership Club was named 2006 Volunteer Teen Group, and Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers took home the Volunteer Group of the Year.

As a retired first sergeant, Mrs. Sawyer said she gets paid back in good feelings, surpassing any paycheck, when she volunteers.

“When I teach a class in Army Family Team Building to a young private’s wife, I see her ‘get it’ and the fear going out of her body when she understands and gets knowledge,” said Mrs. Sawyer, an AFTB master instructor. “I mean you can’t get paid for that.”

The Army-wide AFTB is a family training and readiness program. It provides participants with an understanding of Army culture, and the skills and resources they need to become self-reliant, self-sufficient members of the military community, said the Garrison Kaiserslautern’s AFTB program manager, Robin Arnold, who nominated Mrs. Sawyer for the Army KMC’s highest volunteer honor.

“I chose Nancy because I felt she embodies the true spirit of volunteerism. She gives so much of her time to so many organizations,” said Mrs. Arnold. “I didn’t realize how much she really does until I began putting the nomination together and talking with some of the groups she volunteers for.”

These groups range from the garrison’s Army Community Service, where Mrs. Sawyer not only volunteered as a master instructor but also gave her time to many of its programs and events, to the Landstuhl Fisher Houses and American Legion Kaiserslautern Post Germany 1, where she prepared meals for wounded Soldiers and their families.

“She’s always wanted to give something back for all the years she has been in and this is one way that she can do that,” said her husband, Col. Walter Sawyer, the 29th Support Group commander.

When her husband and his unit were deployed for a year to Afghanistan, Mrs. Sawyer not only regularly checked on the families, but she also collected school supplies and clothes, sending about 40 boxes to the unit to give to the 161 surrounding local communities’ schools, agencies and orphanages.

“It was a great morale builder for the kids and for us to see the smiles across their faces,” said her husband of more than 25 years. “And, I’m glad she was able to be a part of that because it helped us quite a bit downrange.”