NCOA platoon digs up praise from Daleville community
February 14, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 14, 2013) -- Soldiers from the Noncommissioned Officers Academy were recognized for their selfless service to the Daleville Senior Center during a ceremony Feb. 7.
Daleville calls itself the gateway to Fort Rucker, but it is nice when it works both ways when Soldiers go out and help the community and fulfill needs such as they did at the senior center, according to Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth.
"It was such a beautiful day when they came out and I am sure they would have preferred to ride down to the beach, but I am really appreciative that [they] came here and thought about a volunteer opportunity," she said during the ceremony.
On Jan. 26, 4th Platoon at the NCOA gathered its ranks and headed out to help the seniors of Daleville with yard work and heavy lifting.
"We had to decide what to do as a class project and as soon as I mentioned the senior citizen complex, hands down that is what we were going to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hoffman, community service leader of 4th Platoon.
The 17 Soldiers cleaned up the overgrown, 75-yard garden that was unsafe and not a pretty sight for the seniors.
"It was a jungle," said Hoffman. "The old foundation was overgrown and there was a lot of debris from storms. Tree limbs were down, the fence line was overgrown with vines and leaves were everywhere, so we went in and cleaned everything out. They had a pile next to the road when we were done that was unbelievable."
The work was estimated to take a full day, but with the power of numbers the Soldiers got it done in three hours, saving the staff around 2 1/2 months worth of work.
"I was really impressed by the willingness of our guys. Giving back to the elders who have given so much during their lives is one way we can say thank you to them. It wasn't about doing a class project, but it was us coming together to help people in need," said Hoffman.
The storage shed was cleaned out and organized as well.
"It was packed; you couldn't even walk in there. It was jam-packed from one end to the other. We cleared it all out and they had a big rummage sale. The things they decided to keep we reorganized, put in some shelving and made it nice, safe and convenient for them to use and access," said Hoffman.
Many Soldiers who participated agreed that they were worried that they might not complete the garden on time because it was so overgrown, but with everyone's energetic attitude it was done fast and correctly.
"Everyone really threw their backs into it. I think [the seniors] welcome the cleaner space; the view alone is pleasant now. I see myself in their position one day and I hope someone will come help me out," said Staff Sgt. Christian Bon.
Words can't express how thankful the staff is, according to the center's director, Laura Leger.
"You all already do above and beyond being in the service, but this was just great. You did an outstanding job. The seniors kind of get overlooked sometimes and so it is a blessing for us. They love our military and for them it is wonderful," she said while addressing the Soldiers.
Seniors at the center, like Detty Shaw, were very thankful and looked forward to the Soldiers returning to help with other projects.
"We are all so grateful that they are going to be helping us. I know we sure need the inside painted. I am looking forward to the swing if they decide to build one," she said.
The commandant, the deputy commandant and the maintenance branch chief of the NCOA all agreed and decided, after a walkthrough of the facility and the grounds, that they wanted to try to make the complex an academy-type project for future classes.
"They want to continue to give time to the Daleville Senior Community Center with projects like this, whether it is clearing things out, yard work, building a gazebo, a porch swing or yard swing or expanding the garden," said Staff Sgt. Michael Enman, 4th Platoon community service leader. "Our hard work has paid off because it has turned into more of a continuous project or donation from the Army side of the house for the community."
Hoffman and Enman are stationed at Fort Rucker and both plan to make appearances at the home to check up on the residences and to make sure that the building is holding up to high standards from time to time.
"We both intend to volunteer personal time. With the high number of retirees that stay in the area, most of the guys that come in here are prior service military, so that is our way of saying thanks as well as being able to give back to our community," said Enman.
Pizza and drinks were served after the Soldiers were recognized, and the seniors and Soldiers mixed and mingled, each telling stories of their adventures throughout life.