By Jessica Hall, Northwest GuardianFebruary 17, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The Town Center apartment that Pfc. Matthew Sanchez lives in with his wife Maelisa and their two children, 4-year-old Mallorie and 3-year-old Maverick, is more than their house. It serves as a home away from home for the many single Soldiers Sanchez works with at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"This house is a place for them to come and feel like they are home," Maelisa said. "They are like my little brothers, and when they are here they can trust me."
The Soldiers play with Mallorie and Maverick, watch TV, play Xbox and enjoy home-cooked meals.These simple acts of kindness have not gone unnoticed by the Soldiers, or their Families. Maelisa is in contact with some of the Soldiers' mothers on the phone and Facebook. Many thank her for looking after their sons.
Private First Class Patrick Nolan describes Maelisa and Matthew as the kindest people he knows.
"They go out of their way to help you," Nolan said. He goes over to their house about once a week, and his mom has become friends with Maelisa.
This caring Family gives back to their new Army Family in part because of all that they've gone through and subsequently been given. Mallorie was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a congenital defect in which the ears, nose and/or mouth do not completely develop. Mallorie has an inner ear but no ear canal or outer ear, and also has a small jaw, which causes upper respiratory issues, particularly when sleeping. Her special needs were one of the reasons Matthew enlisted in the first place.
While Sanchez had a successful career as a manager for companies including AT&T and Clarks, he was looking for something new, and particularly for Mallorie, an employer that offered health insurance.
"I wanted to take a new path but I didn't have any college education," Sanchez said. "I needed to find something that I would like to do and support my family's needs as well. I decided to join the Army."
Upon joining the Army in October 2010, Matthew chose to become a medic.
"I was deathly scared of needles but I chose to be a medic. Having the medical background would help me understand my daughter more and give back for what people have done for us," he said.
While the Family hoped to be stationed near family and hometowns at Fort Carson, Colo., Sanchez was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment at JBLM. Being away from home intimidated them at first since they didn't know doctors or anyone in the area.
"It was scary because everything was working out so well for us in Colorado, but we switched our lives to the unknown," Maelisa said. With the help of the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Sanchez Family had a home upon arriving, appointments with local doctors and a school for Mallorie. "EFMP made all of those fears coming out here so much easier to face."
Maelisa also got involved in her FRG almost immediately upon arriving at JBLM last summer. She serves as a point of contact for Family members and as the group's treasurer. Her constant volunteering led to her winning the Honorable Order of Molly Pitcher, a field artillery/air defense artillery honor awarded to volunteers who go excel in their communities.
"Maelisa is definitely one of those people that immediately stands out," Maria Daniels, the 2-17 FA FRG leader said, "because from the beginning and as a new spouse, to get involved as she has, it's really commendable. It's not like she has all the time in the world but she still volunteers her time when she is busy with a lot of other things."
Support from the battalion has eased the Family's transition into the Army. Sanchez's squad leader and platoon sergeant have facilitated his going to many of Mallorie's doctors' appointments and quickly relayed information to him during training exercises.
"It's hard to ask for personalities and leaders that take their Soldiers' lives and can understand them and work with them, it's hard to find people in general like that," Pfc. Sanchez said. "Coming to the military and seeing people like that, it makes me love the Army that much more."