JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Janice Buckley and Herb Schmeling weren’t looking for praise when they separately began volunteering in support of servicemembers and the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community.

On Monday, I Corps Commanding General Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti formally inducted Buckley and Schmeling into the Civilian Hall of Fame during a luncheon. Their photos are now among 15 civilians with places of honor at I Corps Headquarters.

“This is just (our) way to say thank you for all you have done,” Scaparrotti said.

Separately, the two volunteers had become indispensable parts of a much-appreciated support network, he said.

“We are reinforced by people like those honored here,” Scaparrotti said.

Both inductees exemplify concern and compassion for Soldiers and their families, he said.
“The strength of our nation is the strength of our Soldiers,” Scaparrotti said. “Our Soldiers are stronger because of the actions of these great people.”

Speaking about Schmeling’s nomination, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade commander Col. Paul Norwood said the retired command sergeant major was a “dynamo” of volunteerism.

“Does anybody not know Herb?” Norwood said jokingly. “He was one of the very first people I met upon arriving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.”

Norwood read excerpts from the 13-page nomination letter written on Schmeling’s behalf.
His decade of volunteering included helping to raise more than $1 million in donated goods and funds to send care packages to deployed servicemembers.

Schmeling personally bade farewell to more than 40,000 servicemembers as they deployed and welcomed many of them home upon their return, he said.

The retired sergeant major, a 30-year veteran, continues to support JBLM’s Fisher House, USO, Association of the United States Army and the Sergeants Major Association.

“What we’re talking about is service and what it means to be a citizen,” Norwood said. “(Schmeling) defines both.”
555th Engineer Brigade Commander Col. Michael Brobeck spoke on behalf of Buckley, saying he was thrilled to honor her volunteerism and service to JBLM families.

“The difference she makes in the Soldiers’ lives is just phenomenal,” Brobeck said.
Buckley started by baking brownies for local National Guard units following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Eventually, she founded Operation Homefront, a national organization, and supported more than 29,000 Soldiers and family members with financial or other assistance.

Her current focus on wounded warriors helps obtain an average of $600,000 annually for her Heartbeat organization.

“She goes well beyond,” Brobeck said. “It’s really our honor and well deserved.”

Buckley said she received the news of being inducted into the hall of fame with surprise.
“I was a little overwhelmed when I heard about it,” Buckley said.

Although deeply honored, the effort of many volunteers should also be acknowledged, she said.
“I didn’t do this alone,” Buckley said pointing out a handful of people who volunteer alongside her. “Without them, I couldn’t do what I do.”

Giving back to servicemembers and their families means a lot to her, she said.

“There is no greater community in the world than the military community,” Buckley said.
Schmeling thanked all of those gathered for the luncheon and Norwood for the nomination.
“I hope this doesn’t mean I have to quit doing what I love doing " being around Soldiers and their families,” Schmeling said. “I hope this isn’t like when you retire from the railroad and they give you a pocket watch.”

Volunteering is a chance to pay back a debt of gratitude, he said.

“I like being there for others, making them feel like someone’s looking out for them,” Schmeling said. “I volunteer with the same fire, energy and enthusiasm that I led Soldiers with.”

Rick Wood: