COLUMBUS, Ohio - For many people, more than 27 years of service to the nation would be enough volunteer work. For Maj. Gwendolyn Hoogendoorn, it was just a start. For two decades, she has volunteered with the Ohio Wildlife Center, helping rehabilitate injured wild animals.
"I have always had a passion for the welfare of animals," Hoogendoorn said. "My work started when I found an injured animal and brought it to the hospital. Watching the volunteer veterinarian carefully mend the creature's leg melted my heart."
Since 1998, she has worked with almost all the wildlife found in Ohio -- including owls, foxes, raccoons, eagles and bears. She is a volunteer rehabilitator, specializing in neonatal orphaned wildlife.
Her military experience has contributed to her volunteer work, and vice versa, with the values of both influencing and improving her performance.
"Volunteering has taught me the true meaning of selfless service," she said. "It has taught me to genuinely care for something more than myself. The military has instilled the value of commitment, setting standards, recognizing my limitations and continuing to seek improvement."
She urges all service members to find something they are passionate about to assist in their communities.
"Give back!" Hoogendoorn urges all service members. "No paycheck or material thing will ever be as gratifying as making a difference in the life of someone. One of the most gratifying aspects of the National Guard is serving my community."
Hoogendoorn lives in Sunbury, Ohio, and serves as a logistics, operations and plans officer with the Ohio National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters in Columbus. She has deployed overseas multiple times.
The Ohio Wildlife Center treats more than 5,000 animals a year. It was founded in 1984 to foster awareness and appreciation of Ohio's native wildlife through education, rehabilitation and wildlife health studies.