Military members serve their country, community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Military members volunteer to defend their country, many times in harm's way. Many of those same servicemembers also give their time freely to serve their local community, helping wherever they can.

Members of Team Offutt support the base and local community in many ways. Whether it's working to make Offutt a better place for all servicemembers, or supporting a local charity or event, Team Offutt is involved with helping others every day.

Tech. Sgt. Gary D. Wertz, a senior weapon systems coordinator with the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is one example.

Every month Sergeant Wertz averages more than 30 hours volunteering as a troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 247.

In August 2009 he received a letter asking for volunteers to attend a meeting at his daughter's school. After the meeting, which was attended by more than 20 people, he was one of only two who volunteered to be troop leaders.

"My dad was a Boy Scout leader and I saw that he had a good relationship with youth that I think helped them grow up," Sergeant Wertz said. "Over time I saw there was a respect between them, and I wanted to be able to share that same respect and maybe teach (children) something."

As a troop leader Sergeant Wertz is responsible for setting up the group's meetings, coordinating activities with parents, organizing fundraisers and attending an occasional four-to-eight-hour training seminar.

One aspect of being a troop leader Sergeant Wertz said he really enjoys is instilling values and a sense of responsibility in every Girl Scout.

"Some of these girls may not have much responsibility for things outside of the Girl Scout environment, so in our meetings we work on developing a basic understanding of responsibility and respect for others," Sergeant Wertz said.

"The main thing I'm trying to teach them is being in charge isn't everything and sometimes being the person that helps (someone) succeed is just as important," he added.

Sergeant Wertz also volunteers regularly with the Town and Country Humane Society, a no-kill animal shelter in Papillion, Neb., where he performs a variety of tasks including clearing snow, cleaning the facility and assisting customers.

He dressed up as Santa during the 2009 holiday season in support of the society's "Santa Paws" fundraiser, which allows people to receive a picture of their pet with Santa for a nominal fee.

The sergeant's efforts helped raise approximately $1,500 for the organization, however, for Sergeant Wertz, making people smile meant more than the money raised.

He recalled one moment during the fundraiser that had a profound effect on him.

An elderly woman wanted to have a picture taken with her schnauzer because she felt like it could be her last Christmas with him, Sergeant Wertz said. The dog was blind and could barely walk.

"I felt for her because that's one of the last things she has to hold on to," Sergeant Wertz said.

"Being able to see someone happy and knowing your doing something good for somebody else is what makes it all worthwhile," he added.

Airman 1st Class Jennifer M. Jalbert, a cryptologic operator with the 97th Intelligence Squadron, has supported numerous events such as the College World Series and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, as well as the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Assistance Fund.

Volunteering and helping others, Airman Jalbert said, is the right thing to do.

"As Airmen we are blessed to be supported by the Air Force and we should not only give back to the Air Force but also to our local community," she said.

"The people (in) our community provide us with services, entertainment and everything you can think of, without them we would be at a great loss. Our community supports us and we should support them in return," she added.

Along with being an avid volunteer within the community, Airman Jalbert serves as the point of contact on many occasions within her unit for base blood drives.

"I've always been told by my mother that donating blood takes very little time and effort, but greatly aides those who are in need during times of crisis. She always said if I ever needed blood I would want people to donate for me, so I donate for others," Airman Jalbert said.

Another Offutt warrior who volunteers on a regular basis is Capt. Felisa S. Wilson, a group practice manager with the 55th Medical Operations Squadron.

Captain Wilson contributes up to 10 hours every week serving the Offutt or local community. She supports the Drug Education for Youth program, she's a mentor and healthcare supervisor for Department of Defense youth from 9 to 12 years of age, and she's the president of Offutt's Company Grade Officer's Council.

Giving her time to help others is always a rewarding experience, Captain Wilson said, especially when she's helping children.

"I love interacting with the (children) in DEFY because they always leave me with more than I came with, they're smart, funny, thoughtful, open and honest, which is refreshing when viewing the world (through) their eyes," Captain Wilson said.

"I feel like I've been blessed with great opportunities in life and giving back to others is part of the deal," she added.

Captain Wilson also said she enjoys being the president of the CGOC because in that position, she can impact the lives of so many.

"Being involved with the CGOC gives us as officers a unique opportunity to teach (and support) Airmen, as well as learn from NCOs and senior officers," Captain Wilson said.

To date, Captain Wilson and the CGOC have sponsored a $500 scholarship for a University of Nebraska Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, coordinated a CGO panel to speak with ROTC groups during base visits and organized many volunteer activities.

Volunteering is something everyone who is able to should do, the captain said.

"You always get more than you give when you volunteer in your community," she said. "There's always someone in need. Why not give what you can? If you're blessed enough to be healthy and able-bodied then you should volunteer to help someone less fortunate."

For information about volunteer opportunities, call the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 294-4329 or the Offutt Red Cross Office at 294-5032.

(Editor's Note: This is the first story in a three part series on volunteering.)