ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Many service members look for opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in the communities in which they serve. Capt. Nate Grunert, a budget officer at U.S. Army Sustainment Command, is no different.
After arriving at Rock Island Arsenal in 2021, he came across a newly established organization that supports LGBTQ youth and it was a no-brainer for him that he wanted to help this small organization move in the right direction.
The organization is a non-profit Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer community center in Rock Island whose purpose is to provide a non-judgmental, safe, and reliable community center for LGBTQ individuals to reduce any feelings of discrimination or isolation.
Grunert learned the importance of volunteerism and selfless service from his older brother, Roy Anderson, a master sergeant in the Air Force.
“I try to volunteer at every duty station. I came across the organization and read their mission so I put in an application as a volunteer,” said Grunert. “I wasn’t expecting to see something like this in a small rural area and so I was immediately drawn to them.”
Grunert, an openly gay officer, specifically liked that it was new and supported their mission. He felt he could relate with the organization and it is something he says he could have benefitted from at a young age.
“It is important to not only have a safe place but a way to help families and friends understand what is going on with their loved ones.”
The organization provides a variety of services such as multi-age and gender community groups, individual, couple, and family counseling, educational trainings, workshops, a library and computer lab, and transgender clothing swap.
Grunert volunteered to help with the accounting and fiscal policy procedures because as a non-profit they were still new to the financial process. His goal was to help market the organization in order for them to receive grants and donations.
“There are a handful of state and local businesses that contribute funds and I wanted them to see that we are being good stewards of their money and that it is being put to good use,” said Grunert.
Chase Norris, executive director of the organization, described Grunert as a “huge asset” to the organization.
“We are very grateful to have Nate on our team,” he said. “Not only has he taken care of our in-house bookkeeping and admin side, he is at every event early to help set up and stays to clean up and is always willing to help out wherever we need him. He really is an asset to the team.”
His work has been strictly voluntary and he does not receive any monetary or other type of compensation.
Grunert is not only pleased with the changes society is making towards inclusivity and diversity, he is also happy with the way the Army has been moving forward with this.
In September 2011, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was officially repealed, allowing LGBTQ people to openly serve in the armed forces.
While serving in Germany in 2017, Grunert felt very happy in his unit and was comfortable with the climate created by his chain of command. This gave him the courage and strength to come out of the closet.
He recalls a time when there was an unpleasant incident and his squadron commander quickly addressed the issue.
“The command recognized work ethic and that’s what really matters,” said Grunert.
He believes the Army is moving in the right direction to ensure representation matters and, though change may be slow, it is definitely happening.