Military News

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Red Cross honors reservist as Hometown Hero

by Tech. Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- An Air Force reservist was one of a dozen individuals and groups recognized for service-before-self actions at the 5th Annual Hometown Hero Breakfast at Museum of Aviation here June 25.

Staff Sgt. Melissa Erwin, a communications network vulnerability management technician at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, received the 2014 Red Cross of Central Georgia Hometown Military Hero Award.

Regardless of the hero category - humanitarian; emergency response; animal rescue; blood; workplace; military, - each recipient "displayed courage, dedication, concern or a conviction; something that moves or inspires people to do more, to be more," according to the Red Cross.

Erwin is that kind of person, said Chief Master Sgt. Terrance Stokes, who nominated her for the award.

"Melissa is a dedicated and caring individual ... her purpose in life is to improve the world around her," said Stokes, AFRC Network Systems Division superintendent. "All Melissa wants to do is assist others, whether it is building a home ... or spending time with veterans."

Actions that contributed to her recognition as the Red Cross' Military Hero include work with observance month committees, support to Relay for Life events, volunteering as a survivor and caregiver, and laboring on Habitat for Humanity homes.

A post-traumatic stress disorder survivor, Erwin approached Team Robins with the idea to start a PTSD support group - an idea that was voted into an official Robins AFB organization in support of more than 6,000 servicemembers.

It may be easier to see how her actions support the Red Cross' mission, but as a Citizen Airman, her skills also contribute to the Air Force's fly, fight and win vision.

"Sergeant Erwin is dedicated, determined and passionate about all areas of her life," said Maj. Kasey Stramblad, AFRC Communications Coordinator Center chief. "She'll run full steam ahead until the task or project is complete."

Erwin's "positive outlook on impossible situations" also contributes to office productivity, according to the major.

"She knows you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Not only does she help make sure the right issue gets to the right person for a fix, but she helps prioritize vulnerabilities and researches fix actions to better support system administrators.

Erwin's spirit of service and nature of finding "fix actions" helped motivate her to volunteer. The American Red Cross recognizes the strength of volunteerism and relies on it to accomplish its mission to "prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers."

Being recognized as a military hero was close to heart for Erwin.

"I pour my heart and soul into helping others," she said. "It gives my life meaning and peace."

"[I know] there are others like me and it's helpful in our recovery to know we are not alone."

Presenting that cause to the Team Robins Caring for People forum ... "going above and beyond the call of duty" to provide services that have a positive impact on members of the community is what made Erwin stand out as the military hero.

It also makes her stand out a Citizen Airman.

"She's got a lot of passion and a lot of drive, but as you mature you gain more rudder and she is really starting to gain some rudder," Stramblad said. "This type of award helps acknowledge the work that she's put into the past, but also the potential in life and what she can do in the future."

Stokes agrees.

"(Erwin is) focused, and she knows what she wants. I think she will go far. I can see her being a senior NCO; she just needs the opportunities to excel."

Although Erwin is proud of what she has done and inspired by those she helps, she is driven by a passion to continue to help where she can.

"I am truly looking to help others like me and start a [PTSD] support group here in Houston County," she said. "After a deployment, we are changed by our experiences and sometimes all a veteran needs is help finding new meaning and peace. As far as my career in the Air Force, since I love helping folks, I want to be a first sergeant one day."

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