By Ms. Andricka Thomas (CECOM)May 5, 2008
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - When most Soldiers sign up to serve and protect, they do not think of throwing parties at the Ronald McDonald house in Washington D.C., as Staff Sgt. Wendy Spohn does.
A recent finalist of the 2007 Geico Military Service Award, Spohn serves as clarinet player and Chief, Safety Branch for the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band. The award spotlights the contributions enlisted members of the Armed Forces. The annual award recognizes six military recipients during a ceremony in Washington D.C.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Davis, senior drum major and chief of plans, operations and training division, AMC Band, put Spohn in for the award. He said there was no doubt in his mind that Spohn was the right Soldier to nominate.
Keeping her unit safe as the safety NCO is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her passion and compassion for others.
"I learned of her dedication to community service when she eagerly took over as our unit lead volunteer for the Freestate Challenge Academy mentor program," said Davis.
"I didn't have the greatest childhood, and I just want to do my part in making a positive mark in someone else's childhood," said Spohn. Serving in the Army was one way to serve.
A native of Alabama, Spohn reported to basic training in Missouri in 1995 and began her first assignment as a Reservist with the 313th Army Band playing the clarinet and five years later went active duty in 2000.
"I never thought that someday I would be playing for the AMC Band," said Spohn. "But I always knew I wanted to play clarinet for the rest of my life." Spohn has played clarinet since the sixth grade. Spohn said she never thought she could join the Army and continue to be a musician. After joining, she instantly loved it and decided then that she would play and bring music to others for as long as she could. "Music moves people, and I love it," she said.
Spohn shares her love for music with her husband, and recent Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Spohn, also in the AMC band, and their three-year-old son Lukas. Spohn's compassion is best seen in her love for her little sister, as she is a participant in the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters program. Her "little sister," who lives in Alabama, recently visited Spohn and her husband and son this past December.
"In fact...I bought her [her little sister] a dress for prom and she just sent me a picture to my cell phone," said Spohn with a smile. She spoke about the conditions the young lady lives in, and that she only wants to share with her the possibilities in life.
"I want her to know that she can do and be anything she wants, and that the only person in her way is herself," said Spohn. That attitude is what drives her to work with 16 to 18 year old cadets from the Free State Challenge Academy Chapter located at APG. She works one-on-one with the cadets who are overcoming the effects of broken lives and families. She said it is rewarding to help change the direction of a young person's life.
"If I can be an example to someone then I will," said Spohn. "It's the least I can do."
Teenagers are not the only children who benefit from Spohn's passion for service. Spohn, who recently in 2006 suffered the loss of her 4-month old daughter Julia, has made it her personal mission to protect and serve sick and under-privileged children. As a result of her daughter's death, Spohn also volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House in Washington D.C. Spohn was also a suffering parent barely hanging on to each passing day, and that is what drives her to give back to families with special needs children in the hospital.
"I was there not too long ago," said Spohn. "I just want to lend support to other parents who may fear for their child's life." Her last contribution to the House was making gift bags and cooked meals for the families at the hospital. She plans to commemorate her Julia's birthday, June 9, by throwing a party at the House for the children and parents who are still living day by day at the hospital.
"After her wounds mended from the loss of her child, she made it her passion to give back to the less fortunate," said Davis. "That to me is the epitome of undying selfless service."
Volunteering in the March of Dimes, March for Babies walk is another way she gives back. Her family of three raised over $1,200 and walked together April 20 during the March for Babies wearing t-shirts honoring her daughter Julia. The shirts read "Julia's Family" and "Everything we do, we do for her," said Spohn.
"I know that when I do things like the March of Dimes, I'm helping a child like Julia have a chance at life," said Spohn.
A Soldier, a wife, mother, big sister and mentor, Spohn does what she can to positively affect the lives of others. Spohn exhibits what it means for a Soldier to truly answer the "Call to Duty."