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JBLM Sergeant Audie Murphy Club

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hendricks helps put local club on the map

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hendricks, fourth from left, has help give the JBLM Sergeant Audie Murphy Club a big boost. Courtesy photo

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Word is getting out about the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

You may have seen a member wearing the medallion, with its distinctive powder blue ribbon, at an official military function, but you may not have known its significance. You have probably seen members helping out at area events or dropping off toys to kids in need.

But who are they, exactly?

Sergeant Audie Murphy Club (SAMC) members are tried and true leaders. Specifically, they are enlisted, non-commissioned soldiers who "exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of soldiers and concern for families of soldiers," according to Forces Command Regulation 600-8. Members are nominated by a military superior and must complete a series of rigorous boards before they can be accepted into the private, non-profit Army organization.

The club is named for Sgt. Audie Murphy, the most decorated combat soldier of World War II. Wounded three times and a veteran of at least nine campaigns, Murphy received every decoration for valor available, including the Medal of Honor. He later became an author and actor, and even played himself in To Hell and Back, a 1955 movie based on his 1949 autobiography of the same name. He was killed in a plane crash at age 45 in 1971.

Yet Murphy's legacy lives on. With a motto of "Lead from the Front," Sergeant Audie Murphy Clubs around the globe promote virtues of leadership, volunteerism and community.

It was one of those leaders, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hendricks, who helped put the local club on the map.

When Hendricks, a SAMC member since 2009, took over as president of the JBLM club in 2012, it had a measly $8 in its bank account. Just two years later, the club was able to give away "close to $18,000 worth of money, food and toys to local organizations," he said. "Early last year, we projected that we would be doing a lot of things in the community and on the installation. We didn't really know what was going to happen, but lo and behold, everything we claimed manifested, which was really amazing."

The club also started a quarterly study session last year for potential SAMC members, said Hendricks, who is assigned to the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. The initiative paid off: it inducted seven new members in 2014, and membership now stands at about 25. "We are committed to helping our junior enlisted soldiers become better leaders and also committed to taking care of the community and installation," Hendricks said.

Volunteerism is one of the core values of SAMC, and last year, members of the JBLM club logged nearly 4,500 hours helping out with events like the Gig Harbor Race for a Soldier and the JBLM Zombie Run. Hendricks' two sons even pitched in - to the tune of 200 hours (see sidebar).

This year, members want to focus even more energy on volunteering for organizations - both on and off post, military or civilian - that need their help.

"Anyone who needs [volunteer] assistance can get in contact with us," Hendricks said. "That helps us out even more than any financial donation."

But Hendricks didn't turn the club around by himself. Along with volunteers and other chapter members, community organizations, particularly the Capt. Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), helped it grow and thrive.

"They sort of adopted us, so a lot of our support comes from them," Hendricks said. "We've been getting a lot of requests from people who are affiliated with them to come out and volunteer. I think that's a big part of our success."

And while monetary support is always appreciated, the group also is thankful for in-kind donations.

"All the money [and donations we get], we try to push it right back into [the community]," Hendricks said. "I don't think we've told anyone 'no' in the last two years."

For more information, visit the group's Facebook page, email or call 347.909.0507.

The JBLM SAMC recognized Hendricks' sons, Michael Hendricks, Jr., 13, and Nathanial Sample Jr., 9, for all of their hard work and the 200 volunteer hours they logged with the club last year.

"My wife was deployed for six months, and I was dragging the kids everywhere," said club president Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hendricks, "volunteering, to meetings, wherever. Eventually, they ended up wanting to do it, even when mom came back."

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