Soldiers, Family Members and Civilians from across the Fort Drum community received recognition for their service during the installation’s annual Volunteer of the Year and Man / Woman of the Mountain appreciation ceremony May 10 at the Commons.
Since 2016, 4,843 installation volunteers recorded 77,107 hours of service, at an estimated value of more than $1.8 million. Dani Reed, Fort Drum’s Army Volunteer Corps coordinator, said that leaders thank the nominated volunteers for their accomplishments and support to the community during the annual ceremony.
“Volunteers are essential to the Army’s mission,” she said. “Through their dedicated services, volunteers transform military installations into communities. Volunteers’ accomplishments enhance Soldier readiness and Family support. They are trailblazers, and (they) can be found throughout the community, to include Soldiers, Civilians, retirees, spouses and youths.”
Col. Bryan Laske, Fort Drum garrison commander, said that it is his privilege to thank volunteers during the monthly recognition ceremony, which serves as a reminder of the amount of work individuals contribute to the community on a daily basis.
“They are literally the arms that hug us, and they are the human touch that none of our government programs can replicate no matter how well-funded they are,” he said. “Most importantly, they are people of action and not just talk.”
Peter Whitmore, local businessman, adjunct instructor at Jefferson Community College and former president of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, served as guest speaker. He earned the titles of Fort Drum’s Civilian Volunteer of the Year in 2009 and Man of the Mountain in 2011.
Whitmore has given his time to the Association of the United States Army, the USO at Fort Drum and Riverfest, to name a few. He described volunteerism as “doing the right thing” and “the ultimate exercise in democracy.”
“When you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you live in,” Whitmore said. “The sense of community and working side-by-side with Soldiers and their Families is what makes this all worthwhile for me, and for many others.”
Whitmore offered some advice to his fellow volunteers.
“Do the things that you are passionate about, and pace yourself,” Whitmore said. “Don’t burn yourself out. Not every organization is for everyone, but don’t give up. If it’s not your thing, find something else.”
Nominations are submitted for those volunteers whom commanders, chiefs, program managers and directors felt deserved recognition for donating their time and effort to a unit, agency or organization. These nominations were separated into five categories, and one person was selected in each as overall winner.
Laske and Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan L. Alfaro, garrison senior enlisted adviser, presented the awards to all of the nominees. They joined Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles W. Albertson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander and senior enlisted adviser, respectively, to recognize the Volunteer of the Year and the Man and Woman of the Mountain.
Volunteer of the Year
Catherine McFadden, committee chairperson for Fort Drum Cub Scout Pack 26, was named the 2017 Fort Drum Installation Volunteer of the Year. McFadden said she was honored to be among so many deserving nominees.
“This is just a very humbling experience to know that all that work is recognized and noticed,” she said.
McFadden, who assumed responsibility of Pack 26 two years ago, serves by the motto, “Leave it better than you found it.” McFadden said she originally saw this as an opportunity to volunteer a few hours a week since her son, Uriah, was a Scout. She soon committed much more time and involvement.
“That’s OK with me. You just do what you have to do,” she said. “I do it for the kids, to be honest, because you see how they benefit from Scouts.”
McFadden said that some of her favorite activities have been the Pinewood Derby model car races and the Space Derby, where Scouts race rockets down a clothesline.
Not everyone can dedicate dozens of hours a week to volunteering, but McFadden said that people will find it a rewarding experience if they can find just a little time out of their busy schedules.
“Take a small step and say yes,” she said. “It never hurts to say yes and see what happens. There are great people volunteering who can help you along the way.”
Man and Woman of the Mountain
In 2003, the Man and Woman of the Mountain awards were established to recognize local civilians who provide significant contributions to the quality of life for Fort Drum Soldiers and Families. Since then, 21 men and 17 women, to include this year’s recipients, have been selected for those awards.
Carol McCoy was named the 2017 Woman of the Mountain. McCoy, who has served as Jefferson Community College’s president since 2007, will retire at the end of this semester.
She has been instrumental in fostering a military-friendly environment that provided more than 1,700 diplomas to Fort Drum Soldiers and Family Members and active in promoting employment readiness for transitioning Soldiers.
“This year’s Woman of the Mountain is often defined as a highly dedicated professional and a wonderful friend of Fort Drum,” said Eric Wagenaar, deputy to the garrison commander. “Dr. Carol McCoy looks beyond obstacles and reframes problems in ways that allow groups to solve them and open doors to new opportunities. Simply put, she’s a visionary, and she knows how to make her vision come true.”
The 2017 Man of the Mountain, Gil Pearsall, was the recipient of the 2016 Shapiro Citizenship Award, which is presented by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce to individuals for outstanding contributions in civic or social welfare activity.
Pearsall was recognized for helping to raise funds for the North Country Honors the Mountain monument and the Watertown Rotary Club’s Purple Heart Scholarship Fund, among his many contributions.
Piatt, who served with the former 2nd Brigade Combat Team executive officer and 10th Mountain Division (LI) inspector general, thanked Pearsall for all he has done to support the Fort Drum community.
“We have monuments all over the world that honor the 10th Mountain Division, and I’m glad we have one right here in Watertown,” Piatt said. “Thank you for all you have done, because this division certainly deserves it.”
In his closing remarks, Piatt thanked all of the volunteers for their service and credited them with enhancing the readiness of the 10th Mountain Division and its ability to respond whenever the nation faces a challenge.
“The only reason we can do that is because this is the best community in the Army,” he said. “You are the very fabric of this community that allows this division to go everywhere, without notice, to some very dangerous places without care or concern. We are stronger because of you. The VIPs in the room tonight are our volunteers. I admire everything you do, and you have all of my respect because this Soldier thinks very highly of you.”
The following volunteers also received recognition during the ceremony.
Family readiness group volunteers:
Stephanie Strand, Ashley Shepard, Jill Bruce, Lindsey Liebes, Erica Pualani Hill, Jessica Knotts, Jane Gangcuangco, Ariel Tayler-Smith, Tiffany Grimm, Jesse Deel, Erin Gibson, Katherine Bender, Megan Tompkins, Kristie Lauren Quigley, Robert Matz, Valerie Hodges, Shannon Momeny, Kamonpun Raines, Amy Huebner, Kerry Stevens, Elena Robinson, Josalyn Hawkins, Andrea Alleman and Melissa Corneilson.
Grimm was named overall winner in this category.
Small community group volunteers:
Ronald Buchanan, Adenike Fasan, Dennis Nicholson, Heather Hermann, Carrie Wulf, Abby Giersdorf, James Delity and Elizabeth Jones.
Giersdorf was named overall winner in this category.
Child and youth group volunteers:
Catherine McFadden, Cate Sforza, Jill Leduc and Ronald Buchanan.
McFadden was named overall winner in this category.
Melina Jones, Olga Zubak and Angel Asaah.
Large community group volunteers:
Pamela Seidenberg, Sierra Coons, Carrie Shive, Christopher Lara, Janel Dominguez-Roberts, Tonya Smedes, Gervais Baptist and Carissa Fisher.
Seidenberg was named overall winner in this category.