Reservist busy assisting veterans in need

By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle on October 5, 2012

People give to their communities in different ways. Some serve at soup kitchens. Others might read to the blind or coach a youth sport team. But one 446th Airlift Wing Citizen Airman finds joy in helping her own ... fellow veterans.

Senior Airman Michelle Mastrorocco, a 446th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, volunteers as a community outreach leader with the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization designed to assist wounded veterans through a variety of programs and services. They work to encourage injured troops as they adjust to civilian lives.

"Having people like Michelle in the unit remind us why we do what we do," said Senior Master Sgt. Michelle Helpenstell, 446th SFS operations superintendent. "We value service and integrity, and she proves there is always something more that can be done in order to take care of our own."

Taking care of her own gives Mastrorocco gratification.

"There is a certain feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction I get from helping others," said Mastrorocco, who joined the 446th SFS in January 2012. "Community service fosters a sense of belonging and ownership. We are responsible not only for our community and ourselves, but also for each other. Our military community is what we make it. If you volunteer and get involved, it can be pretty awesome."

Volunteering with the WWP isn't her first time helping those in need of assistance.

"I have always been active in the military community, from volunteering in my children's school classrooms, to becoming a certified victim advocate with the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program," Mastrorocco, said. "I believe there are roles that need to be filled. If you have the time and the skills, then you should do all you can to help others and give back to the community."

Mastrorocco, a prior active-duty Airman, has been volunteering for the WWP since early 2012.

The vision of the Wounded Warrior Project is "to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history," she said. "I wanted to work with them because I believe in that vision."

Mastrorocco doesn't let her successes go to her head.

"It's an amazing feeling when I am able to assist," she said. "I had one client tell me I was an angel after I helped him secure funds to move into an apartment and pay his first month's rent. But I can't spend too much time focusing on the successes I have, because there are always more veterans or family members who need help."

Mastrorocco explains how she and her WWP team contribute to the aid of veterans.

"We recruit volunteers to sign up for events on the Outpost and make sure all pertinent information is posted and sent out," she said. "I also send event information out to various contacts on base to give military members and their families the opportunity to get involved with Wounded Warrior Project events. I also act as a representative of the WWP at community events. We also work closely with and support events held by the Warrior Transition Battalion (at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Main)."

In her full-time civilian career, Mastrorocco assists veterans as an outreach and case manager for Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation, Veterans' Services Department.

"I provide resource and referral information and assistance to veterans, active-duty (service members), National Guardsmen, Reservists and their families," she said.

"We can provide them with referrals to confidential counseling, and assist them with finding housing, emergency financial assistance, education benefits, employment assistance, and anything else they may need assistance with."

Mastrorocco and her coworkers strive not to leave any vets behind.

"If someone contacts us and we can't help them, we'll find someone who can," she said. "There are many resources and benefits available to veterans, military members, and their families. It is our job to help them find those resources and tap into those benefits."

Mastrorocco doesn't plan on abandoning her "service-before-self" attitude any time soon.

"I'm looking at various opportunities that include working with incarcerated veterans and expanding my role with the Wounded Warrior Project," she said. "I would also like to go back and finish my second (master's degree) in counseling psychology, so I can work with veterans in a greater capacity."

Helpenstell puts Mastrorocco's efforts into perspective.

"She takes pride in the thankless," she said. "She recognizes the sacrifices veterans put on the line, and makes sure they don't go unnoticed."