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‘Culture of Volunteerism’ hallmark of military service

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - -- Ida Fryar is the spouse of a retired Airman. She invites patients from a local hospital into her home for meals. She also brings food to homebound people through the meals-on-wheels program. She arranges fundraising, organizes parties and bakes cupcakes for nursing home residents. Furthermore, Ms. Fryar crochets baby items for new mothers and works with a women's group at the base chapel.

All in all, Ms. Fryar contributes about 40 hours a week to volunteer activities.

She is not alone.

After achieving their yearly flying goals in late September, members of the 334th Fighter Squadron took time away from their daily duties to volunteer 170 hours to Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro, a nonprofit organization that aims to eliminate poverty and homelessness.

These are but two samples of the footprint of volunteerism that runs so deeply in the Air Force and at Seymour Johnson in particular.

Servicemembers, military family members, civilian employees and retirees all contribute to a culture of volunteerism that provides many benefits to community members on both sides of the base's gates.

But why is volunteering so common in the military community?

It can be argued that the selfless traits found in volunteers are the same as those required for military service.

"Volunteering is the external manifestation of a heart of service," said Col. Steve Kwast, 4th Fighter Wing commander. "People volunteer who want to make this country greater. It is at the heart of who we are as patriots."

Juanita Joseph, the volunteer program manager with the airman and family readiness center, said she believes volunteering provides a sense of satisfaction.
Her sentiments were echoed by one of the officers from the 334th who worked with the Habitat-for-Humanity organization.

"It was an awesome experience, and I was proud to help the community," said Capt. Matthew Thrift. "It's great to be able to take out a team of warriors and build a project that will really make a difference in someone's life."

Are Team Seymour's servicemembers just looking to stack their performance reports with selfless deeds of community service?

Apparently not.

"Volunteering is not about performance-report bullets," said Airman 1st Class Christina Kessler, a frequent volunteer from the 4th Communications Squadron. "It's good to see how my time can benefit someone else."

Additionally, volunteers themselves often reap some benefits from their experience. Volunteering can help to develop skills, gain work experience and increase social awareness while building appreciation for the community and the people that live in it, said Ms. Joseph.

But for some, the motivation comes from deep down.

"I volunteer for the love of God and to help people," said Ms. Fryar.
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