Spartan Soldier earns USO's Volunteer of the Year award, selected among thousands of volunteers worl
September 10, 2012
The USO recognized its national Volunteer of the Year -- a Soldier from the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team -- during a ceremony held at the Eagle's Nest at the division headquarters, Sept. 7. Sgt. Richard Schuh, a gunner with the battalion's "Blackjack" battery, received an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal from Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Commanding General of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, as well as a certificate from the USO Headquarters acknowledging him as the top volunteer among thousands worldwide.
Schuh's selection as the Volunteer of the Year came after he was named the USO's Volunteer of the Quarter, and then Regional Volunteer for the Southwest Asia region after working with the USO center at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan in 2011, while the 3rd BCT was deployed to Kandahar Province. Thousands of volunteers are nominated for the annual award, and the USO boasts over 24,000 volunteers across the globe.
"Every USO around the globe submits a volunteer of the quarter," said Karen Clark, the director of the USO Fort Drum. "Somebody that we think is outstanding, that epitomizes what a volunteer should be, has the right attitude, the morals, the customer service attitude, and the ability to help."
The field is then narrowed down to just the volunteers of the quarter from each of the four main regions that the USO serves: the United States, Europe, the Pacific and Southwest Asia.
"From there, (the USO National Headquarters) picks the one," said Clark.
Sgt. Schuh, a native of Riverside, Calif., contributed nearly 200 volunteer hours in a relatively short time period starting Aug. 15, 2011, and ending Sept. 3, 2011. He coordinated and managed various events at the USO in Kandahar, such as a "550-cord" cuff event where he and 50 other service members used parachute cord to weave special bracelets that they later gave to fellow service members, family, and friends.
He also organized a base-wide fantasy football league, and ran the United Through Reading program where video recordings of service members reading books were sent home to their children allowing them to see their parents reading the book, easing the pain of separation. Through it all, he kept a positive attitude and continually reached out to others, encouraging them to also volunteer.
Schuh's introduction to volunteering came from his experience at Kandahar Airfield with several USO staff members that came to the wounded warrior housing where he was recovering from shrapnel wounds he received when his platoon was attacked on a patrol.
"We heard that some of the USO staff members were coming by to make smoothies for us. Three of them came by, they talked to us about volunteering and they made us smoothies," said Schuh.
The experience left such an impact on him that shortly thereafter he made the decision to volunteer.
"It put something in my head and I thought that maybe it could help me," he said.
Schuh put in many long days, sometimes working through intense physical pain. The opportunities to contribute gave him a sense of fulfillment that not only helped him cope with the pain, but helped him heal.
"It was like therapy for me, to get over what happened to me," said Sgt. Schuh. "I was able to tell my story, to tell what happened and it was able to put a smile on my face, not only who I was telling (my story) to."
The USO's announcement of Schuh's selection generated excitement at the USO Fort Drum, especially considering he was the first 10th Mountain Division Soldier to ever receive the national award.
Sgt. Schuh, who was notified and congratulated personally by USO President, Sloan D. Gibson, in a recent telephone call, has taken all of the attention he is receiving in stride, wishing instead to focus on continuing his volunteer work with the organization.
"It feels really good to give back to (the USO)," said Schuh.
The humility that Sgt. Schuh displayed when taking the call comes as no surprise to Clark, who upon receiving the news of his announcement, notified his unit's command team.
"Like all of our fantastic volunteers, he's humble, he's modest," Clark said.
She also acknowledged the significance that his selection represents, saying, "I just am impressed, and inspired and I hope he will inspire other people in the community to volunteer somewhere."
Schuh's love for the work he has done for the USO kept him volunteering thru his mid-tour leave and is now his life-long commitment to continue volunteering. He also encourages everyone to volunteer, as it often provides a sense of accomplishment and helping others.
"If you have a chance to volunteer, no matter if you are in the military or not in the military, wounded or not wounded, I would say it's an incredible journey to volunteer." said Schuh.
Col. Sam Whitehurst, Commander of the 3rd BCT, further emphasized the importance of volunteering along with recognizing the significance of Sgt. Schuh's achievement.
"When you're engaging the enemy, you're focused on that, but then you also continue to focus on that idea of service, service to your Soldiers and service to our community," Col. Whitehurst said. "Really, when I look at Sgt. Schuh, he is that total package. He epitomizes what it means to a warrior, a Spartan warrior."