Volunteers are the unsung heroes behind nearly every family readiness group, but U.S. Army Reserve FRG leaders at Fort Benning decided to change that with a tune of appreciation.
Leaders of the 718th Engineer Company and the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), gathered together on February 24, 2018 at the U.S. Army Reserve Center at Fort Benning to give a special thanks to those who selflessly serve on a regular basis.
“It is because of you all that we can help,” said Erica Quinzon, the FRG Leader for the 718th Engineer Company, who organized the Thank You Luncheon, which was complete with awards and certificates of appreciation.
The U.S. Army Reserve understands the value of Families, said Command Sergeant Maj. Todd Priest, division command sergeant major, 98th Training Division (IET). “One of the pillars of readiness is family readiness. We cannot deploy to combat without those Families and sponsors who support that process,” he said to the crowd of volunteers and sponsors. “You are all vital to our success.”
The countless efforts by individuals and organizations has truly made a difference and we wanted to let you know we appreciate it, said 2nd Lt. Kenneth Travis, acting commander of the 718th Engineer Company. “I want to thank you for what you do for our Soldiers, and really creating a climate of inclusivity within our ranks.”
Quinzon started the official acknowledgement of thanks by calling up a sponsor who had been at her side from the start, Mary Lou Austin, chief executive officer, United Service Organization – Georgia. “This lady has been with us from the beginning, when no one else would give us the time of the day.”
Austin, as well as many of the other individuals being acknowledged that day, was given some heartfelt thanks, a certificate of appreciation and a 98th Iroquois Tomahawk. Austin said she never had any second thoughts about helping when Quinzon contacted her. “Being an Army wife, I know what Families go through, and I know what readiness means.”
Many know the USO for their support centers at airports and the coordination of entertainment for deployed troops, but they do so much more, said Austin. With the mission of strengthening service men and women and connecting them to communities, Austin said her organization is about helping those behind-the-scenes folks too. “We are the force behind the force, so to speak.”
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers understand the force-behind-the-force and its value as they have made up a large percentage of the deployment rates for years, said Suzanne Matusiewicz, FRG leader for 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET), who is a veteran herself. However, on the down side, Army Reserve FRGs do not always have all the same resources as their counterparts on the active duty side. With this reality, it was even more critical to recognize our community partners who support our Reserve Soldiers, said Matusiewicz. “They are the foundation of how we build up our family support.”
Of course, saying thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors was more than just handing out some certificates, said Matusiewicz. “It’s the right thing to do when somebody does something for you. You need to say thank you in whatever way is meaningful and special to you. That is what my grandma taught me – you say thank you.”
Receiving genuine thanks from the 718th Engineer Company and the 98th Training Division may not have been needed for many of the regular volunteers and sponsors, but it was warmly received as smiles, hugs and a few tears of gratitude could be seen throughout the event.
The tokens of appreciation will also be a way to let others, who could not be at the event, know their efforts are not forgotten, said Austin. “We can take this award back to the USO community and show them: ‘Wow, we are here to support them, but, you know what, they are so thankful for our support.’”
Thankful is an understatement according to Quinzon who listed a number of examples on how each person and organization had helped the Reserve Soldiers of both the 718th and the 98th. “They supported us immensely, and they really didn’t have to at all,” she said specifically about Operation Home Front – Team Benning who helped organize getting school supplies for over 90 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers’ Families.
Helping those in need is just standard operating procedure for Team Benning though, said Marissa Wentling, Operation Home Front –Team Benning member and the 2018 Benning Military Spouse of the Year. “I totally understand the challenges of trying to get family support.”
And to Team Benning, a Soldier in need is a Soldier in need, even if they are in the Reserve component. “We are the same team here,” said Wentling.
The ability to coordinate across component and unit lines and work together is what makes our FRG work so well, said Quinzon. “It is because of our collaboration between all of our units that we are able to provide such a large capacity of resources to our Soldiers and their Families.”
And for many of the regular volunteers, the opportunity to provide that support is all the thanks they need, said Eron Matthew Grigg, quartermaster and judge advocate of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10558 in Cataula, Georgia. “Our mission is to honor the dead by helping the living.”
As a veteran of two combat tours, Grigg said he knows just how vital supporting the FRGs is, especially the ones in his area. “Keeping the families ready so that the Soldiers minds can be on the mission out in the field is ridiculously important.”
Quinzon reiterated that same message as she officially ended the Thank You Luncheon with sincere appreciation for all the volunteers and community partners, and reminded them that as long as there were Soldiers, there will be an FRG.
“I hope you all will continue to support our units through whatever may come. We never know what’s going to come tomorrow. We never know. But, we are so confident that we can handle anything because we have all of you behind us.”