Lisa Kluetz, Family Program Director
It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, 19-25 April. Normally, the State Family Program Office would be gathering with our team of dedicated volunteers and representatives from the Wisconsin National Guard senior leadership during the week to celebrate our volunteers. Instead, our volunteers are supporting their military families and their communities by practicing social distancing and Safer at Home initiatives. I am selfishly sad that I am missing out on the opportunity to thank our volunteers, learn from their current experiences, and plan for our support to military families and communities despite of the challenges we are facing together.
In the past ten years, I have met some incredible volunteers. A group of dedicated professionals that enable to Wisconsin Army National Guard to keep families informed while protecting the safety of our troops regardless of where they are currently serving. Volunteers are the National Guard’s heart and soul. At a moment’s notice, they drop what they are doing to answer a call from a family or community member. They attentively follow and post Facebook posts that provide information, support, and encouragement to families that are struggling with social distancing, worrying about a deployed Service member, or just need an activity to keep their children active and engaged in the new “home school” environment. They are the pulse of our military families and enhance the Service Member Support Division in our ability to address and meet the needs of our military families.
We also have a team of dedicated youth and adult volunteers that support events across the state. These volunteers enable the family program to offer events that connect military youth and forge friendships that last a lifetime. Without the State Teen Peen and our adult child and youth volunteers, the Wisconsin National Guard would have limited opportunities to meet the needs of our geographically dispersed military youth population.
Finally, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) has a team of dedicated volunteers who encourage and recognize employers that go above and beyond to hire, recruit, support, and retain Service members. The ESGR volunteers advocate for Soldiers and their families who are struggling at work or who have experienced repercussions due to their service to our country. The ESGR Ombudsmen are subject matter experts in the Uniformed Services Employment and Remployment Rights Act (USERRA) and are standing by to assist Service members in the Guard and Reserve navigate and address employer issues related to their service. ESGR volunteers are also knowledgeable in portions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that protect eligible family members’ ability to attend deployment cycle events and be protected from negative consequences.
Volunteers, I cannot thank you enough for your service. You are our unsung heroes. Without your service to our families and their Service members, the Wisconsin National Guard would not be as operationally strong and flexible in our capability to answer the call to serve state and federal missions. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything that you do and for your continued service.
If you would like to become a volunteer for the Wisconsin National Guard, contact 1-800-292-9464 option 1. We have many volunteer opportunities and are always growing our team.