The Interior of Alaska is known as a military friendly community. Some are subtly supportive, while others exhibit actions considered truly heroic. Stacey Garbett, an 18-year-old Girl Scout from Fairbanks, is one of those individuals who took that support to another level.
Garbett was honored as one of the 2012 Summer of Heroes scholarship recipients during the Alaska State Fair in Palmer Aug. 26. Annie Drury, spokesperson for Alaska Communication, who partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alaska, said the program recognizes and rewards Alaskan youth who are making a difference in their communities.
Garbett's mother, Ruth, a retired military veteran and nurse care manager, B Company, Warrior Transition Battalion, Medical Department Activity-Alaska said, "Stacey learned that this battalion's injured Soldiers were being evacuated from Afghanistan and placed in empty barracks." As part of a Girl Scout 'gold' endeavor, the young Garbett launched the Home for Hero project. Soliciting support from local businesses and saving her own money from dog sitting, she created four relaxing hospitality suites at the battalion lodging on post, "that would allow the veterans to decompress and focus their attention on treatment. Service to country and community has always been important in our lives and it was great to see her plan, present and overcome obstacles to make this happen," she said.
"I learned that shopping in crowded places is challenging for Soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress," Stacey Garbett said. To alleviate that she put extra hygiene supplies in the bathrooms and stocked the kitchens with quick meals and "comfort foods." Garbett also made up the beds with cozy blankets, handwritten cards of encouragement and even put chocolates on the pillows. She said, "I thought it was important to make them feel comfortable and have good memories before moving on to another duty station."
"It's great to be able to take a Soldier who has been in a traumatic situation and put them in a fully outfitted room," said Sgt. 1st Class John Knott, 2nd Platoon squad leader, B Co. , WTB, MEDDAC-AK. "When a Warrior in Transition walks in, they immediately have a sense of home. It's fully stocked with food and toiletries, which also eases the burden of having to shop for this stuff on their own."
Many of the Soldiers who become Warriors in Transition have been through a traumatic situation. They are often transported from a combat zone, to a hospital or transient recovery area. Col. Dennis LeMaster, commander, MEDDAC-AK said, "When traveling, Soldiers always want to go home. Each new hotel or tent or billet seems a further step away from home. Miss Garbett's generosity has given Soldiers a home to return to while they embark upon a challenging journey of recovery. She has provided a sense of warmth, comfort and hope by turning these billets into homes."
Garbett learned to stand on her own two feet as a military Family member. She loves being part of a small community like Fairbanks, "a military town," she said, "with many heroes, where everyone helps everyone." She added that the businesses she approached were very generous.
The avid ballroom dancer and creative writer hopes to be a second-grade teacher someday. Her advice to other aspiring Alaskan youth heroes is to always keep your head up. "Sometimes you have a rough day or rough week and you may want to throw in the towel," she said. "In the end, you need to make yourself a role model. People are always watching and you could make a difference in someone's life."