FORT POLK, La. — Members of the Fort Polk community gathered at the Warrior Center April 13 to celebrate the spirit of giving — of time, effort and heart — at the installation’s annual Volunteer of the Year Ceremony.
Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, opened the event by telling the audience that the common denominator in a room filled with diverse and exceptional people is volunteering.
“Through volunteering, the people in this room care for others, put individuals above their own needs and have an attitude of service. That is motivating, inspiring and enough to keep this installation running at a high rate of speed,” he said. “Every single one of you should be proud of what you have done for our community, Families and the Army.”
Col. Ryan K. Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander, was the ceremony’s guest speaker. He thanked the volunteers for everything they do.
“I’m passionate about volunteering. It means a lot to me and I’m honored to speak to a group of people who give their time to make everything at Fort Polk better,” he said.
Roseberry said garrisons across the Army rely on volunteers to improve quality of life for Soldiers and Families and after being a garrison commander for the last couple of years, he said he understands even better the importance of volunteering.
“Without the volunteerism here at Fort Polk, many of the programs that we love wouldn’t be able to continue or we would have to reduce them significantly,” he said. “That’s why I thank you and encourage you to continue to get the word out about volunteering, because your contributions are huge.”
Roseberry said volunteers can’t seem to sit on the sidelines when they know their talents can make things better.
“We have a calling that tugs at our heartstrings. Given the opportunity, we want to have an impact by serving the members of our community by working at the Thrift Store, painting the outside of a school, reading to children, helping Soldiers through Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, youth programs, volunteering at the Red Cross or lending a helping hand after a hurricane or two. These are just a few of the examples of volunteerism I have been fortunate enough to observe in my time at Fort Polk,” he said. “The payoff in volunteering comes from the smiles and comfort we bring to others, but also the self fulfillment and accomplishments we feel inside — knowing that we have given everything to make a difference.”
Sgt. Juan Galarza, Medical Department Activity, attended the event. He said he started volunteering because of his children. Galarza is a Child and Youth Services soccer coach and said he enjoys making the game fun for his team.
“The very first day is the best. I make it as fun as I can so the kids are motivated to come back and want to play the game,” he said.
Galarza said coaching is all about making the kids happy and having a positive impact.
“From the beginning of the season to the end, you see a progression of growth — not only in how to play the game, but also in the self confidence the kids grow into,” he said.
Galarza said everything about the Volunteer of the Year celebration was beautiful from the decorations to the purpose behind the evening.
“It’s special that they took the time to recognize us. I really appreciate being acknowledged for all the hard work,” he said.
Volunteer of the Year Christina Redmond is a spouse that volunteers at Fort Polk’s Main Post Chapel. Redmond said volunteering is important to her because she loves to see people light up with joy thanks to something she has done as a volunteer.
“Volunteering brings a certain joy to people because they know you don’t have to be there, but you are. I think it’s part of building a community and loving people,” she said.
Redmond said she was honored to be at the Volunteer of the Year ceremony. “I don’t think any of the volunteers here tonight do what they do because they want to be acknowledged, but it’s nice to be recognized for the things we do nonetheless,” she said.
Ruby Gross, 17, attends Leesville High School and was the Youth Volunteer of the Year. Gross volunteers at the Main Post Chapel.
Gross said she volunteers because she admires the people behind the scenes that make things happen.
“Volunteers bring happiness because they get things done and that’s the kind of person I want to be,” she said.
Gross said it’s nice to be recognized for the volunteer work she does.
“It encourages me to do even more,” she said.