Sophia Sweeney still cares about Soldiers.
The retired first sergeant works at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, assisting service members through the Soldier Readiness Processing system. In the year since she wore a uniform, she helped found the Rainier Chapter of the Military Police Regimental Association, a nonprofit organization that supports military police and their Families.
But the role that earned her the JBLM February Volunteer of the Month award was family readiness group leader of 42nd Military Police Brigade.
Sophia said her husband, Master Sgt. Michael Sweeney, became concerned about Family members left behind when the brigade deployed in early 2012. She volunteered for the FRG leadership position to make sure the Families were looked after while their service members were away.
"I didn't want him to worry," she said. "I wanted to make sure Families had opportunities to get out and do things, meet new people, to let their kids play together, and ultimately, to support each other."
Sophia did just that. During the deployment, the FRG planned eight Family events, including a tour of military aircraft and vehicles with the help of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. She set up an auto maintenance class at the JBLM car care center. The battalion collected and sent school supplies to Afghanistan for distribution to school children.
"I tried to make the events as interesting as possible," Sophia said. "When spouses are deployed, you have Families going crazy and moms trying to take care of kids and they have no outlet. So we provided that ability to get out and do things."
Sweeney also helped coordinate fundraisers that brought in more than $5,000, which the battalion used for a welcome-home celebration at the Landmark Convention Center in Tacoma, saving out-of-pocket costs to the spouses, significant others and Soldiers.
"Five thousand dollars is pretty good for an FRG over eight months," she said.
Even though she was the FRG leader, Sweeney said she had lots of help. She credited a great team of volunteers who offered support and guidance.
"We all worked together and made things happen," she said. "Without a team, I couldn't do everything by myself."
Even though she was working, going to school full time and parenting two sons of her own, she made the FRG a priority during the deployment.
"It was very important to my husband that Families were taken care of back here," she said.
Sweeney will soon be following her husband on his next PCS to Fort Knox, Ky., which means he will no longer be attached to the 42nd MP Bde. But Sophia said she would gladly take on another FRG leadership role in Kentucky if there is a need.
"The good thing about an FRG is that we all have something in common," she said. "We all have deployed spouses. We all feel the hardships of our spouses being deployed. It's nice to be able to share that with somebody who really understands."