Across the nation, 15,000 American Red Cross volunteers annually give 1.4 million hours for a value of $34 million, serving the military.

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord alone, 108 adult volunteers gave 7,242 hours in 2017.

"The reality is I couldn't pay someone to do what you do because of the way you do it," said Col. Michael Place, Madigan Army Medical Center commander, at the annual volunteer appreciation lunch at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord on March 28.

Madigan runs on red and blue. The medical center, in all its departments and services, is full of volunteers sporting their red and blue vests and supporting every effort and initiative undertaken here.

Place shared the impact Madigan's volunteers have on him personally. "I get reports that say we had 'X' number of volunteers who gave 'X' number of hours each year. It chokes me up every single time," he said.

The annual luncheon honored a good representation of Madigan volunteers.

Each year, an exceptional volunteer service award is presented to a volunteer to recognize each of the seven fundamental principles of the American Red Cross -- humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. A volunteer of the year award is also presented.

Rulon "Dean" Pace received the award for humanity. In addition to noting his 20 plus years of volunteer service, the presentation of his award fittingly mentioned the warmth and sense of humor he shares with all in the Madigan community.

James Dodson, who was recognized in the independence category, started his volunteer tenure with Madigan as it opened the doors to the "new" hospital in 1992.

As his presentation noted, when he does not immediately know the answer to a patient's question, he will find it. He also believes that his day is done only when the last patient gets what they need.

Dodson commented that he does not give the many hours he does for recognition or awards. Still, he appreciates that people notice what he does.

Both Pace and Dodson can be found helping patients day in and day out at Madigan's information desk in the Medical Mall.

Carl Johnson, who received the award for neutrality, handles administrative duties in Madigan's Red Cross office.

Janet Picatti-Baker was presented the universality award for her work with the Human Animal Bonding Program where she visits patients and staff in the hospital with service and companion dogs. Joining her for the award section of the luncheon were canines Cooper, a golden retriever, and Jax, a German shepherd.

Ruth Knasel, who volunteered for 34 years in family medicine before retiring last fall, received special recognition and a standing ovation, for her long service.

The other exceptional volunteer service awards went to Eddie Hamilton (impartiality), Jessie Bremer (unity) and Al Grieco (voluntary service). The volunteer of the year was awarded to Christine Curren. All of these volunteers give of their time in areas all around JBLM.

One of the speakers at the event, Steven Greimann, chief development officer of the Northwest Region American Red Cross, noted the impressive generosity of spirit in the room.

"All in this room are in service. You are in service to each other, to your community, to your unit, to the country. I can't imagine many other rooms like this," Greimann said.

He went on to note the origins and character of the Red Cross. "We were founded on the battlefield over 150 years ago by caring and compassionate people just like those of you here in this room."

Col. William Percival, deputy garrison commander and commander of the 627th Air Base Group, thanked the collected volunteers by saying, "I see this as a calling. You've answered the call. And we are so grateful for that."

Place echoed this gratitude by adding, "You are tangible proof that America truly loves its Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen."