FORT BRAGG, N.C. - When Jose Aguimatang and Ksenia Kulik graduated Albritton Middle School, they set aside the lazy days of summer for a volunteer stint with the American Red Cross, Fort Bragg/Pope Army Airfield.

That initial introduction to ARC, spawned a partnership that would last through high school.
On Jan. 26, at 4 p.m., in Memorial Hall (Soldier Support Center), the teens received prestigious Iron Mike pins in a ceremony that honored the service of Fort Bragg volunteers. As both teens prepare for college, they talked about the impact of nurturing a volunteer mindset.

While Kulik spent her initial summer in the Audiology and Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at Womack Army Medical Center, Aguimatang shadowed hospital staff in the orthopedic department.

Aguimatang who may soon attend George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said, "I found it really interesting because they showed me the X-rays and all the different kinds of casts. They even taught me how to put on a cast ... after a few weeks it could actually help a person heal the bone and become fully functional." He added, "It made me want to become a doctor even more."
Kulik's experience paralleled her friend's in key ways.

She prepared rooms and cleaned up after patients, while helping nurses and observing physician procedures. "It was very interesting. I got to see the other side of Womack - not just the patients, but what doctors do and what nurses do," said Kulik, whose mother is a doctor.

Although Kulik has other career plans (she plans to pursue a degree in international relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), she still visits WAMC patients to hand out cookies and play with the children.

Kulik and Aguimatang now volunteer with ARC on a community-scale - making Christmas cards for deployed Soldiers, cleaning up trash for Fayetteville Beautiful and helping with the water slides for events like the Red Cross Rock 'n' Run Fest.

Aguimatang says it's important for military kids take an active role in the community where an Army parent is stationed.

"It (communicates) 'we're from Fort Bragg and we're helping your community too.' It shows a lot that military people do care about their surroundings," he said. Kulik agreed.

"You get to meet a lot of people - not just kids but adults who know you and recognize you. You become like a part of the adult world." she said. "It just feels nice to give back where you don't just sit at home and play video games. You get out and do something."

Now in its tenth year, the Iron Mike Awards continue to spotlight the generosity of Soldiers, spouses, military children, veterans and civilians who enrich the Fort Bragg community. Categories of volunteer service include the Iron Mike lapel pin (300+ hours of service), the Iron Mike Bronze Star (500+ hours), the Iron Mike Silver Star (750 hours) and the Iron Mike Gold Star (1,000 hours).

Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps, presented twenty Iron Mike pins, three bronze stars and two silver stars to adult recipients. In his closing remarks, Anderson led the crowd in a military mantra, "All the way, Army strong, America strong."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16