FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker honored its top volunteers during its annual Volunteer of the Year Recognition Ceremony April 26 at The Landing.
Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general and speaker during the event, thanked all of the community’s volunteers for their sacrifices of their time, efforts, talents and selfless service in making Fort Rucker a special place to live, work, play and pray.
Vernon Johnson, Army Volunteer Corps coordinator, began the event by presenting a check representing the $345,000 in man hours that volunteers gave to the Fort Rucker community in 2021 to Col. Robert J. Holcombe, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua Jr., garrison command sergeant major.
While that figure is impressive, “that is not what this is really about,” Francis said.
“When you come through the gates at Fort Rucker, you hear the guards say, ‘Welcome home!’ because this is the home of Army Aviation,” the general added. “But I argue that what makes this a home is the people here. And what makes this home a very, very special place to live, to work, to play, and to pray is all of you volunteers and what you do within our community.”
He said many organizations on Fort Rucker benefit from the selfless service that volunteers provide, such as Army Community Service; Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities; Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers; chapel programs and worship services; youth sports programs; Soldiers and family readiness groups; Lyster Army Health Clinic; military personnel; the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; and others.
The theme of this year’s ceremony is “shining a light on the people and the causes that inspire us to serve,” Francis added. “I am truly inspired and the Fort Rucker community is inspired by what all of you do on a day-to-day basis. You’re not doing it for a pat on the back, you’re not doing it for the recognition, you’re doing it because you care about this place and you care about the people here – our Soldiers, our families and our civilians at Fort Rucker. Thank you for your tremendous efforts – you are all so important to us, so important to our mission and important to our families.”
The following are the volunteer of the year winners and short write-ups on each that were read at the ceremony.
Youth Volunteer of the Year – Emma Kate Goodson
Goodson went above and beyond in her duties as a volunteer. She is being recognized for her thoughtfulness and ingenuity in her work with ACS assisting with the Army Emergency Relief closing ceremony, conducting the Lending Hangar inventory, and helping with Exceptional Family Member Program special events. She is also an honor student at Emmanuel Christian School and volunteers with various other organizations.
Adult Volunteer of the Year – retired Maj. Donald Doherty
Doherty provided over 500 certified volunteer hours in 2021. He supported the Army Aviation Museum tremendously during 2021 by showing up on schedule – no small feat in itself – filling in for others, and always having a smile. He has volunteered at the museum for more than two years and truly is one of the best volunteers serving with the museum.
Family Volunteer of the Year – Joshua and Staff Sgt. Deanna Lucchesi
The Lucchesi family has embodied the spirit of volunteerism with their contributions to the Soldier Family Readiness Group. This family worked together to revamp their unit SFRG program during a restricted time period. As the SFRG leaders, they coordinated and planned multiple Soldier and family events, such as Stepping into the Challenge, SFRG Virtual Game Night, Halloween Trunk or Treat, Friendsgiving Thanksgiving Feast and Deck the Halls with ornament making for the kids, as well as their Christmas party, all while hosting regular SFRG meetings. Thorough their efforts, a 20% increase in participation with the SFRG was experienced. The family also volunteers at their local church in Dothan.
Active Duty Volunteer of the Year – Cpl. Anastasha L. Capps
Capps worked tirelessly with multiple organizations across the installation. Her work with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers extended well beyond her unit, and she also assisted with coordinating the Ozark Library cleanup, Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation clean up, costume drive, and setup and cleanup for Freedom Fest.
Helping Hand Award – Gabriel Sistrunk
Sistrunk enriched the lives of servicemembers, families, retirees and civilians throughout the installation. His assistance especially helped during the shutdown and transition of Bldg. 315, which served as the initial in-process point for all new Soldiers, civilian employees and contractors arriving to Fort Rucker. He also supported many wounded warrior volunteer fundraising efforts.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Virginia Fricks
Fricks has made an impact on countless lives throughout her time volunteering. She exemplifies the meaning of serving as the heart of the Army community. She has volunteered at multiple installations, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Rucker. She volunteered with numerous organizations, such as FRGs, parent teacher associations, youth sports, Girl Scouts, spouse clubs, and MWR arts and crafts.