By Rob Schuette, Fort McCoySeptember 8, 2011
Fort McCoy, Wis. -- The management services assistant for the installation Religious Support Office (RSO) received this year's Fort McCoy Excellence Through Diversity Award.
Linda Higbee was honored for her efforts to advance women, minorities and individuals with disabilities in the federal government and her service as a mentor in both the government and in the local community.
Blaine Markuson, acting director for the U.S. Army Reserve Equal Employment Opportunity Office at Fort McCoy, said Higbee demonstrates daily her dedication to professionalism and diversity in her assistance to numerous Soldiers, their Families, veterans and civilians, according to the narrative nomination.
"She is especially responsive to women veterans, minorities and older veterans or disabled veterans," Markuson said. "She faithfully administers the (RSO's) Operation Helping Hand fund to individuals in financial need with no regard to their race, religion, gender or disability."
Higbee's service to her fellow humans doesn't stop at the gate. Markuson said outside of Fort McCoy Higbee is active in supporting the rights and protections for women through her service as president of the St. Patrick's Parish Council of Catholic Women, vice president of the Mauston-Sparta Deanery for the La Crosse Diocese, and a member of the National Council of Catholic Women.
Higbee said she was completely surprised to receive the award. She said as she listened to the summary of the winner's accomplishments, she thought to herself "this is what I do."
"It didn't seem real that I was the winner until I was called forward and was accepting the award from (Garrison Commander) Col. (David E.) Chesser," she said. "I was so surprised I was speechless."
Higbee, who has been an RSO employee since 2001, said she was happy to accept the award on behalf of all the people who let her help them. Helping people is her way of showing appreciation to them for their years of service, whether that service was to their country, their Families or helping others in time of need. Higbee, who has 35 years of government service including active-duty Army time, volunteered at the RSO from 1990-2001.
"I have learned much from the individuals I have come in contact with over the years -- about life in general -- and a lot about myself," Higbee said. "I hope I have become a better person because of them. Receiving an award, such as this, is very meaningful and has touched the core of my being."
Higbee said she prefers to work behind the scenes and let others take credit. In her job, she has seen many people work hard for years only to have some sort of disability during their "golden years."
Higbee said she is happy to do whatever she can to help these people make their "golden years" less stressful.
The Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," applies to her job. Higbee said she really doesn't consider what she does as work but as an act of love for her fellow human beings.
"Someone once asked me how I can possibly do all this," Higbee said. "My answer was this: 'I've never stopped to think about how I can do it. I just do it. Don't think, do."
Chesser said Higbee has done a magnificent job in welcoming new people, including numerous chaplains and chaplain's assistants, as well as this year's chaplain candidates, to the RSO and keeping the organization running smoothly, as well.
"They rely heavily on Mrs. Higbee to take care of administration, to take care of their needs and she does that wonderfully," Chesser said. "Every time we get a new chaplain in here she says welcome, have a nice tour, and here's what's important."
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Fey, the RSO chaplain assistant noncommissioned officer in charge, said she first met Higbee when Higbee was volunteering at the Catholic Chapel in 1998. When I came back here recently I didn't realize how diversified Linda was and how many places she volunteered," Fey said. "It seemed wherever she goes in Sparta people know her."
Fey said Higbee is persistent in helping anyone who comes through the RSO doors, a quality she uses to help ensure she completes all of her assigned work.
"If a Soldier needs help, she doesn't give up and won't allow them to leave without getting the help they need," Fey said. "She is determined to do whatever it takes to get Soldiers help."