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Fort Rucker honors volunteers for service

1st Sgt. Steven Thorman, Active Duty Volunteer; Rhonda Blair, Lifetime Achievement Award; The Yearicks Family, Volunteer Family of the Year

1st Sgt. Steven Thorman, Active Duty Volunteer; Rhonda Blair, Lifetime Achievement Award; The Yearicks Family, Volunteer Family of the Year

Published: May 2, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 2, 2014) -- Fort Rucker paid tribute to its volunteers at The Landing April 23 with the theme “Changing Lives and the Community.

Volunteers are an invaluable resource to the community, said Col. Robert Doerer, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence deputy commander.

“I want to thank you all for coming today,” Doerer said. “The Army offers a lot of great programs. Many of the programs are accomplished by these volunteers who will be recognized here today. Our volunteers are the key component in making the Army, Army Strong and what the Army is today.

“The ones who volunteer do not ask to be recognized,” he added. “They do what they do to make a difference and this is just a small token to show them we do recognize what they do for the Army.”

Aviation Branch Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Thom said volunteers at Fort Rucker are something special.

“I have been at Fort Rucker for a little over three weeks,” Thom said. “Volunteers are the backbone of the installation. And, I must say, Fort Rucker definitely shows southern hospitality and I believe that is also because of our volunteers here. They all go out of their way to make you feel welcome and a part of the team here.”

A host of volunteers were given volunteer challenge coins and honored for contributing 50 or more hours of service to the community. Others were recognized for giving 500 or more hours: Maria Aponte, Amy Burns, Theresa Carter, Therese Erthal, Heidi Greve, Helen Kosman, Darcy Lynch, Lauren McGinnis, Katherine Moore, Carol Sanders and Earnest Smith Jr.

The 2013 Volunteer Award winners were:

Youth Volunteer of the Year – Julia and Dominick Backmann, who were recognized for their work with the chapel, Catholic Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, the youth ministry and other activities;

Active Duty Volunteer of the Year – 1st Sgt. Steven Thorman, who was recognized for his efforts in youth sports, including coaching baseball, soccer and basketball, and mentoring youth, along with other activities;

Adult Volunteer of the Year – Suzanne Buchanan, who was recognized for her efforts with the Fort Rucker Community Spouses Club and the Fort Rucker Elementary School, along with many other activities;

Volunteer Family of the Year – the Yearicks Family, who were recognized for their efforts with the 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, the 98th Army Band and the unit’s Family readiness group, the arts and crafts center, thrift shop, Cub Scouts, youth sports and other activities;

Helping Hand Award – Amanda Gomez, who was recognized for her efforts with the Taunton Family Children’s Home; and

Lifetime Achievement Award – Rhonda Blair, who was recognized for her efforts with military Families, managing volunteers through the Red Cross, spouses club and multiple Family readiness groups, with her citation reading, “Mrs. Blair’s enthusiasm, ability to motivate others, and warmth have a profound and lasting impact on all the Army and local communities in which she has served.  Her selfless volunteerism and indomitable spirit have proven that she is the essence of a role model.”

Thorman said the recognition from the community is nice, but volunteering brings its own rewards.

“Serving as a volunteer allows me to not only coach the children here in Fort Rucker, but it also has allowed me to just take time and watch just how much each child has learned and grown as they enjoy the sport,” he said. “It is a great way to be a positive influence on the children.”

The Yearicks Family is no stranger to receiving enjoyment from coaching several athletic programs.

“My husband, Ryan, has coached many youth sports programs here,” said Staff Sgt. Lani Yearicks. “He also helps with the arts and crafts programs, thrift store and 98th Army Band. I help as much as possible, but I pitch in as the behind-the-scene coach. We enjoy trying to help out and giving back to the community.”

Earning the Lifetime Achievement Award, Blair said she gets a lot out of volunteering and helping Army Families navigate Army life.

“My passion is Army Families,” Blair said. “I get enjoyment out of everything I do for the Families here. I volunteer as an instructor and teach classes to help the Families know that knowledge is power and being a part of helping them navigate in the Army life is my reward.”

This article was originally published at

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