I’m sure there are some people who feel like volunteering is a waste of time; you don’t get paid and, for the most part, you don’t get any awards or recognition. So why would I volunteer when I am busy with so many other things?
Two things became incredibly important to me when I was young: giving back to others, and our military. My family had always been very involved in our local church and because of that, I learned the importance of serving the community. The military portion came because most of my family was either currently serving, or had served in the military when I was young. This was incredibly influential for me. It made such an impact in my young life to hear the stories of what my great grandfather did in World War II, and how, even after all those years, he couldn’t stand mice because of some horrors he’d faced in combat. I talked with my grandfather, who served in the Air Force, and heard all the things he’d done, and how those things led him to a career at NASA after he retired. My Dad served as a Blackhawk pilot, and I remember the things he’d do that made me realize some people really were heroes; some people had honor and lived differently, and had a different code than other people. I would watch him with awe, even when I was too young to understand–like when he would stop the car as they lowered the flag on post and he’d get out and stand and salute the flag. But I knew these things meant something, and that my dad was special, even when he left rather quickly on a deployment to Somalia, immediately after the battle of Mogadishu happened.
All these things made such an impact on my life, but what made the biggest impact was probably when my brother decided to enlist in the Army, the day after September 11, 2001. Later on, when he was in Iraq and I was in college, I decided I needed to do something to give back. I knew I wasn’t able to serve in the military myself, but I knew what family members go through–I wanted to do something to give back to service members and their families. That desire started my path and my passion for volunteering, and I started my first volunteer group for the military. It changed my life so much I decided I wanted to make it a career, and planned to go full time into working with a military non-profit.
But life doesn’t ever work out the way you think it will. I met my husband in college, and after we graduated, he enlisted in the Army, and I became a full-time wife and mom. It was when we were stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas that a friend told me about the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and all they did to represent our service members and their families. I knew, immediately, I wanted to get involved and do everything I could to volunteer again.
Once upon a time, I had dreamed of going into the non-profit field to work full time for a military support organization, and maybe one day I could support my military husband by taking care of our small kids by staying home. Volunteering with NMFA means I get to live my passion. I enjoy be able to give a tiny bit back to those who do so much for us. Volunteering means I get to keep making a difference.
There isn’t anyone who needs more support, or who has done more to deserve it, than our service members and their families. So I will continue volunteering as long as I possibly can. The rewards may not come in a paycheck or in a certificate you can hang on your wall, but knowing you are making a difference in the lives of those who are putting everything on the line for us is reward enough. That’s better than any paycheck or certificate I’ve ever received.
Do you have any connection to the military and have a desire to give back to them? Consider joining our Volunteer Corps!
Posted by Mandi Verlander, National Military Family Association Volunteer and military spouse