Spouse Volunteer Making a Difference
March 19, 2013
By Fonda Bock
SALT LAKE CITY, -- Sergeant 1st Class John Amundsen had had headaches before, but nothing like this. The unbearable throbbing in his head began May 12, 2011, and for three days the Utah recruiter suffered one migraine after another. On day three he lost his vision for 15 minutes. Tests the next day revealed a golf ball sized tumor covering the right, frontal lobe of his brain, and emergency surgery was scheduled for two days later.
Figuring Amundsen's wife, Erin, needed support during this trying time, Ogden Company family readiness group (FRG) leader Vicki Farnsworth immediately reached out to Erin, offering to sit with her in the hospital waiting room during what ended up being a six-hour operation.
"I tried to keep her mind off of what was going on," said Farnsworth. "We sat together for several hours talking about family -- we both have a special needs child. Her child requires more care than mine and I felt if just for that reason alone, I needed to be with her. When the doctor came out and told the family the cancerous tumor had been removed and he was in recovery, [Erin] broke down and cried -- what I believe were tears of relief. I was so thankful I was there to hug her when she needed someone."
Erin was grateful for the support.
"We didn't talk about the surgery but about the kids -- it gave me something else to focus on. It was nice to have somebody from the Army support us through this big scary thing."
Following the procedure, Farnsworth organized meals to be prepared and delivered to the family during Amundsen's recovery and helped the couple file the necessary paperwork for medical leave.
"It was stage-three cancer," said Erin. "We didn't know if he would have brain damage, but he's doing well now."
Volunteering to support a member of the USAREC family during a critical time of need is just one of the ways Farnsworth reaches out to support families, not only as the Ogden FRG leader, but also as the Salt Lake City Battalion Army Family Team Building (AFTB) program manager for the past three years.
Married to Staff Sgt. Dustin Farnsworth of Ogden Company, Vicki volunteers 15-30 hours a month while attending to the needs of her two children, one of whom is autistic.
"Without Vicki there would be no way to implement our Soldier and family assistance program," said Salt Lake City Battalion SFA Jo Kinchington. "Her cheery 'Can do!' attitude is an unstoppable, positive force. She's organized, goal driven and has a keen understanding of what it takes to keep programs progressing."
As the AFTB program manager Farnsworth teaches and trains others to teach a number of classes at the center level, including military benefits and entitlements, military and civilian resources, chain of command, financial readiness and team building for Future Soldiers.
"Center commanders let us know when classes are needed and what class they wish us to teach," said Kinchington. "Vicki does all our scheduling, ensuring all teaching materials are produced and ready for use by the assigned instructor and is the primary instructor herself.
"She totally revamped the resource area so that an instructor can quickly locate needed materials and made many of the instructor aids we use in the classes. Because of her, Future Soldiers and their families get contact with instructors who are positive about their Army experiences and can share directly with them what it's like to be a part of the Army family."
"I designed games for the Future Soldiers so they were able to interact with each other and the instructor," said Farnsworth. "Most people do not care to learn from the all too well known military power point presentation alone. The hands-on learner will not take away as much from a class if an instructor is just standing up there talking."
As the Ogden FRG leader, Farnsworth lends a helping hand to families in need of assistance, manages the volunteer records, performs clerical duties, created the company newsletter and takes the lead in planning gatherings, family activities, events and fundraising, according to Kinchington.
Farnsworth is just one of hundreds spouse volunteers in the USAREC family, said Rose Smith, USAREC volunteer program manager.
"Volunteers are especially important in a geographically dispersed unit," said Smith. "They contribute to a broad range of services that enhance and expand the capabilities of Army programs and services and provide real-life solutions for successful military living both on and off military installations."