KILLEEN, Texas - The 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, was named the Killeen Independent School District’s Unit of the Year during KISD’s annual volunteer awards ceremony here at the Killeen Civic Center, April 18.
“This is for the kids – if they win, we all win,” said Lt. Col. Ken Cook, battalion commander. “This means a lot to the battalion, but it also means a lot to this great school we are supporting.”
After volunteering 310 hours at Timber Ridge Elementary during the 2021-2022 school year, the 20th Eng. Bn. received the coveted award alongside their adopted school. The partnership between the unit and school was gained through the Fort Hood Adopt-a-School Program, which is run by the Fort Hood School Liaison Office.
The SLO partners units with specific schools, which helps develop integral interpersonal relationships between Fort Hood, school districts and the local communities. The Adopt-a-School Program includes 119 schools across nine school districts, along with more than 90 units at the Great Place. Larger units have multiple adopted schools.
Units volunteer at their adopted schools in various ways, such as reading books, building gardens, painting, assisting during field days and many other activities.
At Timber Ridge Elementary, the engineers volunteered during a book fair, contributed during science classes, worked in the school’s memorial garden and even ran with the students during a boost-a-thon fundraising run.
“They came in and ran with their guidon to help increase all the laps the kids got,” added Denise Smith, parent liaison.
Cook said the unit’s theme of the year is “Building a Community,” which encompasses everything the Adopt-a-School program is about.
“‘Building a Community’ not only means within the unit, but building relationships with outside agencies,” Cook added. “Fortunately, we are blessed for our Soldiers to volunteer at Timber Ridge.”
Helping Hand Award
Also receiving recognition for volunteerism was retired 1st Sgt. Walter Meeks, who received the 2022 Helping Hand Award. Meeks, the spouse of Capt. Rosa Meeks, commandant of the People First Center, volunteers his time at Eastern Hills Middle School in Harker Heights, Texas.
“It was a big surprise to me because I don’t really expect things from stuff I do,” Meeks said humbly. “I just love helping young people realize their potential. I love to see a kid when they learn something and their eyes light up. Some of the kids realize, ‘I can do this!’ Just to see the expression on the kids’ faces is worth all my time.”
Andrea Dykes, volunteer coordinator for the awards, said the Helping Hand Award was created for the volunteer who went above and beyond the call of duty.
Reading off the nomination form Eastern Hills Middle School submitted for Meeks, Dykes said, “Walter Meeks or Coach Meeks, as the kids call him, supports our school. He is a volunteer, coach, mentor and a positive voice for our students. His love, compassion and care for our students is invaluable.”
Meeks, who said he stopped counting his volunteer hours, believes he volunteers around 40 hours weekly.
After sharing a slideshow of photos of Fort Hood’s units volunteering at their adopted schools, Dykes thanked the Soldier volunteers for their commitment.
“I looked at some of those pictures and it was difficult to tell who was smiling more, the students or the Soldiers,” Dykes said.
“We just want to say thank you to Fort Hood,” she said. “Thank you for all the adopted units who come serve alongside us.”