Although the affair was drawn-down in respect for social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Team Bliss rolled out the red carpet for volunteers and thanked them for their service during the Fort Bliss Annual Volunteer Ceremony, as part of National Volunteer Week at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 22, 2021.
The Fort Bliss Army Volunteer Corps event, hosted by Col. Stu James, the Bliss garrison commander, and emceed by Tephanie Hopper, the AVC manager at Bliss, recognized dozens of volunteers from across the Fort Bliss community.
Major Gen. Sean Bernabe, the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, and his wife Jayne, an avid military family advocate, awarded the commendations on a socially-distanced stage at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center on east Bliss.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges with the ability to volunteer and support our community,” said James. “The volunteer services that each of you delivered–our Fort Bliss volunteers stepped in, and stepped up.”
The day’s awardees served in many ways in 2020, including sewing face coverings for the El Paso medical community and deploying Soldiers; visiting children in local hospitals dressed as superheroes and more.
Another example, some volunteers helped the joint North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, as they tracked Santa in their time-honored holiday tradition. Volunteers fielded calls in English and Spanish from anxious kids wondering where St. Nick’s sleigh would be heading next.
The AVC, an Army Community Service program, is an Army-wide effort to help Soldiers, family members, employees, and retirees, give back in the communities where they live and work. At Bliss, AVC is one of seven active ACS core programs.
“They donated thousands of school supplies for the Fort Bliss community,” James said of the day’s honorees. “The Army selected ‘Salute Volunteers’ as the theme of this year’s [National Volunteer Week celebration]. The Fort Bliss theme also comes with the utmost appreciation, respect, and admiration.”
Three categories of awards were given April 22–the Community Spirit Award for outstanding military groups of volunteers, the Outstanding Ambassador Volunteer award for individual volunteers, and the Outstanding Volunteer Family award for militaries families who give of themselves to help better their communities.
This year’s Community Spirit Award recipients are: the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence; the 978th Military Police Company, 93rd MP Battalion; and William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
The 2020 Outstanding Ambassador Volunteers are: Capt. Xavier Washington, 2nd Lt. Santana Winn, First Sgt. Gabriel Ibarra, Sgt. 1st Class Cheryl Hamilton, Sgt. Judy Balisalisa, Spc. Nathaniel Vasquez, Cheryl Baker, Stacy Baugh, Emy Laatsch, and Brandy Macrae.
Three families were recognized for their contributions to the Fort Bliss community in 2020 as members of the Falkenberg family, the Miller family, and the Tolentino family were thanked for their dedication to volunteerism.
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Band performed at the annual event, including Spc. Pierre-Marie Colton, who performed a spirited national anthem. Chaplain (Col.) Allen Staley, the Fort Bliss senior chaplain, delivered the invocation. A virtual audience was able to watch the ceremony via Facebook at @FBArmyVolunteerCorps thanks to live streaming from Bliss FMWR’s Marketing office.
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
If you’re a Fort Bliss Soldier, military family member, civilian employee, or retiree, getting involved with AVC can be as easy as 1-2-3.
ATTEND AN ORIENTATION
The installation volunteer orientation offers a no-commitment opportunity to learn about the Army Volunteer Corps mission, installation volunteer policies, and volunteer opportunities.
FILL OUT AN APPLICATION
During the orientation, prospective volunteers will fill out an application, sharing their strengths and interests, as well as any preferences they may have as a volunteer.
FIND YOUR OPPORTUNITY
Applications are sent to on-post and off-post organizations that follow through with return calls to the applicants when there’s a match.
“Volunteers, you have brought comfort to those who’ve been impacted by the pandemic the most,” James said during the afternoon ceremony. “You’ve invested your time into our community, making us all much stronger. You’re the real heroes of the Fort Bliss community and today we salute you.”
To learn more about the Army Volunteer Corps at Fort Bliss and to find out about future classes, give them a call at 915-569-5500, check them out on Facebook at @FBArmyVolunteerCorps, or email them at email@example.com.