The mother of a fallen Marine took the tragedy of her son’s death as the inspiration to dedicate her life to volunteerism and helping others.
Gold Star Mother Janice Chance shared her story as the guest speaker for Fort George G. Meade’s annual Volunteer Awards Banquet held April 26 at Club Meade.
The two-hour event featured an awards presentation by the American Red Cross, the performance of a musical ensemble from Argonne Hills Chapel Center and dinner.
Doris Tyler, director of Army Community Service, welcomed the audience and called the banquet one of ACS’ favorite events.
“Tonight we honor and celebrate the many contributions volunteers have made to our Fort Meade community,” Tyler said.
Over the past year, more than 3,000 people volunteered at Fort Meade and donated 46,000 hours. The volunteers saved the installation an estimated $1.2 million in services.
The Air Force Honor Guard of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing posted the colors. Chaplain (Maj.) Dwayne Hughes of the Family Life Ministry gave the invocation.
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Cullen presented the awards.
“The only way to bring the quality of life that you deserve in this community is really through volunteer efforts,” Rickard said in his remarks. “I sincerely thank each of you for everything you do to make life at Fort Meade a wonderful experience.”
Voncile Farmer, coordinator for the Army Volunteer Corps and Survivor Outreach Services, acknowledged the Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families in the audience.
“We salute you and thank you for the ultimate sacrifice that you and your loved ones have made for this country,” said Farmer, who also served as emcee.
During her speech, Chance — the president and chaplain of the Gold Star Mothers Maryland Chapter — recalled the death of her son, Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III. Melton was killed on Sept. 9, 2008 while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan.
Chance called her son’s death “the most heartbreaking event of my life.” She joined Gold Star Mothers a year later.
“His death was the soil from which emerged approximately eight years of volunteer service in support of our heroes and their families,” Chance said.
She said her volunteer work for the American Red Cross, Department of Veterans Affairs and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are a reflection of “the legacy of my son’s service” and the healing and fellowship she has found among other Gold Star Mothers.
“I’m so grateful for all that God has allowed me to do as a volunteer,” Chance said. “We should never waste our life. We must use our God-given talents to make a difference for the good of others.”
Chance urged the audience to serve others. “Become a volunteer,” she said. “Leave a legacy that will bring God glory.”
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Exceptional Service Award by the American Red Cross.
Wolfgang “Wolfy” Sklar, a volunteer for the American Red Cross, received the award for his service as a greeter at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center.
Antionette Williams, a regional director with the American Red Cross, praised Sklar for donating more than 2,000 hours to Kimbrough since May 2016.
“He has not missed a single day of volunteering,” Williams said. “His spirit, attitude and personality are a testament to the values and principles of the armed forces and brings credit to the American Red Cross.”
Sklar received a standing ovation. His father Paul spoke for Sklar, who is disabled.
“He felt great. He was really surprised,” Paul Sklar said. “He helps people wherever he goes.”
Make someone’s Day
Staff Sgt. Angel Rodriguez, who serves with the 781st Military Intelligence Battalion, was selected as the Active-Duty Service Member Volunteer of the Year.
Rodriguez volunteers for the Enlisted Spouses’ Club.
“I like helping people and going out of my way to help my soldiers,” said Rodriguez whose wife, Melinda Erner, is a member of ESC. “Why not try to make somebody else’s day better?”
Katelyn Shibilski, a senior at Arundel High School, was selected as the Youth Volunteer of the Year for her work with the Fort Meade Thrift Shop.
“I’m very grateful,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s a good way to give back to the community, and the proceeds from the shop go to other projects to help military families.”
The Fort Meade USO was named Organization Volunteer of the Year.
“I am just extremely grateful that the amazing men and women that serve at the USO are recognized for all their hard work,” said Shawn Sabia, manager of center operations for USO Metropolitan-Washington Baltimore.
“I am humbled by the dedication and passion that they give to our active-duty service members every day.”
Other awards include:
- Civilian Volunteer of the Year: Michelle Brittingham, volunteer for the Fort Meade Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
- Family Volunteer of the Year: Gary and Kelly Swanson, volunteers for the Casualty Assistance Center
- Military Unit Volunteer of the Year: 741st MI Battalion
Compiled by staff of the Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs office. For more information about what is happening on Fort Meade, visit www.ftmeade.army.mil and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ftmeade.