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JBLM Day of Service a success for all

Outreach project allows Air Force to go "above and beyond" - more than they already do

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet addresses volunteers at the Thurston County Fairgrounds for the third annual JBLM Day of Service, Thursday, Nov. 27. Photo credit: Jared Lovrak

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By the very nature of the responsibilities and risks they assume by serving, the men and women of the Armed Forces already give much more than their fair share in service to their community, but that's not enough for them.

Over 150 military personnel gathered at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in the wet and foggy morning hours Oct. 27 for the third annual JBLM Day of Service. Volunteers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 627th Air Base Group volunteered their time at various locations around Thurston County in a massive community service effort that included everything from grounds and building cleanups to recreational field construction.

Many worthy philanthropic agencies benefited from the community outreach project this year, including nonprofit low income housing provider HomesFirst!, the Thurston County food Bank, the Olympia Waldorf School, the South Sound Reading Foundation, For Heaven's Sake Animal Shelter in addition to public resources like the Nisqually Land Trust, parks and public works facilities around the county, and even the Thurston County Fairgrounds.

All told, these volunteer servicemen and women provided an estimated $25,000 worth of volunteer labor in a single day.

"It's a big deal to our community," said Josh Cummings, economic development manager for Thurston County.

While this looks like an ordinary community service or charity effort on the surface, volunteers were quick to point out that the Day of Service is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

"This program allows airmen assigned to JBLM to get out into the community and share experiences with community representation and leadership, while accomplishing labor intensive services for local organizations that may otherwise be difficult to accomplish," said Lt. Col. John "Andy" McQuade, deputy commander of the 627th.

Most of the volunteers echoed McQuade's sentiments.

"One of the biggest things about this is we get to give back to whatever community we live in. It's a humbling experience that helps us stay grounded and realize what we fight for," said Staff Sgt. Aarion Tonny.

Others were grateful for the opportunity to apply the skills and work ethic they've gained from military service in a new, non-traditional way.

"To be able to use the skills we've learned to give back to our community is just a really awesome opportunity," said 2nd Lt. Jessica Rothmeier.

In addition to those fringe benefits, volunteers also enjoyed a heavily discounted lunch provided by Jimmy John's and a BBQ sponsored by Forma Construction and Washington State Employees Credit Union, at the end of the day.

"We will definitely be participating again next year," McQuade said.

The Day of Service isn't just a public relations effort on the part of JBLM or Thurston County, it's a natural result of the mutual respect between the military and the community.

"Thurston County leadership appreciates JBLM and what the servicemembers mean to our community. (...) Local organizations are better off because of the hard work of the 627th ABG and hopefully the ABG has a stronger connection with the people of Thurston County," Cummings said.

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