By Sgt. Derek L. Kuhn/40th PADDecember 9, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - First Sgt. George Donnelly, his wife, Kristina and their three children - sons, Kyle, 11 and Shawn, 8, and daughter, Alyson, 5 - were named the Fort Bragg Family of the Year for 2010.
They were recognized moments prior to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in which they participated with Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, the commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg at the Main Post Parade Field on Dec. 2.
Lighting the tree is one way Fort Bragg recognizes the outstanding service of its Family of the year, said Master Sgt. Dustin Williams, who was a member of the five person board which selected the Donnellys for the award.
Williams said the Donnellys lived the awards values of strength, character, commitment and service, not only to Family, but to their unit and the community also.
Williams, the senior operations noncommissioned officer for the XVIII Airborne Corps Retention Office, said the decision was very tough because all of the six finalists deserved the award, but the Donnellys set themselves apart by emphasizing 'old school' Army values.
"What they did really resonated," Williams said of the Donnellys. "It struck a chord with everyone (on the board). They are really trying to bring back some things that have taken a back seat over the last few years because of the operational tempo."
"They weren't about one particular program or Family," Williams said. "It was how they brought everyone in the unit together as a Family and really made an impact."
George, who's assigned to Battery D, 1-7th Air Defense Artillery Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade, humbly said his Family wasn't doing anything different than most other Families.
"I've been very fortunate," said George, a native of Washington Township, N.J., said. "I feel special just being considered. I have a wonderful family that really supports me and have been lucky enough to have some great mentors early in my Army career."
George said it is important to pass on the tradition of serving others while in the military service to younger Soldiers.
"It's getting back to the basics," he said. "It's those traditional Army values like being selfless, loyal, honest and respecting each other that we need to pass on. They (younger Soldiers) learn to respect the rank, person and mission. That respect and the cohesion that follows makes the unit capable of accomplishing any mission."
George and his Family built that cohesion by taking time to care for his Soldiers and their Families.
"We have a robust (Family Readiness Group) and have been actively engaged with the community by getting involved with soup kitchens, children with muscular dystrophy and sponsoring under-privileged children through the Kids in School program."
Getting his Soldiers' Families on board was important to George, who enlisted Kristina Donnelly, his wife of 16 years, to help.
One of the ways she involved the Families was by starting the "Mommy's Night Out" program.
"The guys were gone for a year, so one of the programs we started when they got back was Mommies Night Out," Kristina said. "The spouses all got together and relaxed as the guys stayed home and watched the kids."
This really helped get the Families involved, Kristina said. The guys would meet up and hang out with each other too during "Mommy's Night Out," she added.
Having so many people involved was important to making an impact, she said.
"We tried to give back, because we've been given so much," said Kristina, smiling as one of her kids playfully chided her for being too humble.