REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s newest Survivor Outreach Services program coordinator started her volunteering service when she was just 12 years old.
Rozeka Gates, executive assistant, USASMDC G-8, said her local YMCA asked if anyone in her teenage group wanted to help the younger kids with swimming and other activities, and she raised her hand. Since then, she continues looking for ways to help others whenever she can.
As the command’s SOS coordinator, Gates works with the Redstone Arsenal SOS to coordinate volunteers from USASMDC to support events honoring local Gold Star families. Gates took over the position from Phillis Reid following her retirement in April.
“Phillis said she thought I would be a great fit for the position,” Gates said. “I wondered who was going to step up and take that spot. I decided I’d do it.”
Gates said she had not heard about the program before and the more she learned, the more she was drawn to it.
“I attended the Gold Star Flag Ceremony and when I saw everyone that was there and listened to the words that were said by (Lt. Gen. Daniel) Karbler and some of the family members, it really, really left a soft spot in my heart,” Gates said. “It just made me want to put my all into this.”
“Just knowing the sacrifice our Soldiers gave for our country, I feel that it is our duty to always honor them and their families,” Gates said.
The gravitation toward volunteering came from her parents, Gates said.
“As long as I can remember, they were always volunteering to do different types of projects and things like that,” Gates said. “I just love to volunteer my time when it comes to different types of organizations, especially when it comes to helping people, those that have lost loved ones. It’s just in my heart. It’s just my passion.
“When you are given the opportunity to help someone whether it is a shoulder to cry on, a trip to the grocery store or preparing a meal for someone in need, please do so,” Gates said. “Volunteering your time for someone can truly make someone’s day better than you could imagine.”
Gates’ volunteering includes working as a youth counselor for 10 years with her church and as a team leader to organize the Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society.
She joined USASMDC through the Pathways program at Athens State University for a 14-week internship, but she was extended for a year and encouraged to apply for a permanent position, leading to her current job with G-8.
“Honestly, this is the best position I’ve ever been in. This is the best organization I’ve ever worked for. I love working here,” Gates said. “I love the family atmosphere. Everyone is family here at SMDC. I’ve never met a stranger. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help with whatever anyone needs help with.”
Since graduating college and settling into her job, Gates has not had much free time for volunteering, but now that she does, she’s ready to tackle her new position.
“I want us to show all of the families that are a part of the SOS program how much we honor them. What I want to do is have as many events as I can throughout the year without burning anyone out,” Gates said. “I know schedules are very tight, but what I would like to do is have really big events twice a year that are centered on family.
“I just want to be able to bring in more people, more volunteers, just to show the Gold Star families, ‘Hey, we have these people volunteering their time to show you all we honor everything your family or your loved one has done for our country and so we want to just be able to keep that going to show our appreciation,’” Gates said. “I want every event to be bigger and bigger with more people, with more volunteers.”