Military News

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Face of Defense: Soldier Makes Volunteering a Family Affair



By Army Capt. John Brimley
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

EL PASO, Texas, May 8, 2015 – As a single mother of three children, Army Sgt. 1st Class Heather West finds herself spending most of her personal time away from home serving others.

Some Saturdays, West works at Operation Santa Claus at Fort Bliss, Texas. Other days, she’s at one of the local convenience stores chatting with a person for whom she bought a soda and a bag of potato chips. But every first Sunday she can be found at the Opportunity Center of El Paso feeding the homeless.

Wherever she is, the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade operations noncommissioned officer manages to find balance between work, family and volunteering.

“I really just get an idea about wanting to volunteer, and I just go and do it,” she said.

High Demand

West said she gets calls from people all around El Paso, but Councilman Carl Robinson is the one person who can get her to do almost anything. She said he has helped fuel her efforts.

“Heather’s very cooperative and responsive,” Robinson said. “It’s always good to know when you have a civic-minded person on your team.”

West admits it’s a challenge to juggle single parenthood and a packed work schedule. “Sometimes people sacrifice family to help out,” she said, but she doesn’t look at it as a sacrifice.

In fact, the 13-year veteran just so happens to be the president of the Fort Bliss Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, which is also known for its volunteer efforts.

“You make time for what you want to make time for,” West said. “You just really have to take advantage.”

A Different Kind of Family Time

West isn’t out in the community going at it alone. Her daughter, 11-year-old Dasanah West, recently received the Fort Bliss Outstanding Youth Volunteer award. And West’s teenage sons, 16-year-old C.J. and 15-year-old Aaron, volunteer just as much as their sister -- and they all do it together as a family.

“When she first introduced us to feeding the homeless, I was really skeptical and I wasn’t really up for it either, because I wanted to stay home,” C.J. said. Aaron said he felt the same way, preferring to stay home and sleep the whole day.

“I’m glad she got me out the bed that day,” said Aaron. C.J. also said he’s taken a liking to all the family volunteering.

Strengthening Bonds

For the past three years, the Wests have made a life out of community service. While the people receiving help reap the immediate benefit, the West family says they have been strengthened by these acts of kindness.

“Before we started volunteering, everybody was pretty spaced out,” West said.

Dasanah said that distance has dwindled to almost nothing. “It’s brought us pretty close,” she said. “The more we get to know one another, it’s actually pretty special.”

With everything West keeps her hand in, from the 10- and 12-hour workdays to the countless hours she spends helping others, her efforts and impact on her own family are not lost. They value what she does in the community for the less fortunate just as much as what she does at home.

“Never in my life have I met a woman so persistent for the happiness of others to where she will go out of her way for the smallest things to make people happy,” Aaron said.

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