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Face of Defense: Soldier Volunteers Time in Community

By Army Spc. Leon Cook
20th Public Affairs Detachment

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Aug. 5, 2013 – Spc. Cody Peckham has been in the Army for only two years. But in the short time since he arrived here, he has volunteered much of his off-duty time in the nearby community of University Place, Wash.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Cody Peckham unloads a shipping container Aug. 2, 2013, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Peckham volunteers in a nearby community is his spare time. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Leon Cook

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“I was in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts growing up, and I did a lot of volunteer work with them,” Peckham, a native of Pendleton, Ind., explained. “I just became accustomed to doing something to help the community on my weekends.”

Peckham said he never earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, because he moved before he could complete the community project required to reach the rank, but he planned to build handicapped-accessible ramps for local businesses in Clayton, Ind.

Shortly after graduating from Pendleton Heights High School in 2011, Peckham volunteered to put his life on the line in the military. After completing advanced individual training at Fort Rucker, Ala., he was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Soon after arriving at his new duty station, he volunteered to assist the unit and its partnered community of University Place.

In November 2011, Peckham was mentioned in an article covering the 21st annual “Make a Difference Day.” Peckham, then a private, was quoted as saying “It’s not every day you see yourself making a difference.” Since then, he has continued to volunteer his time and labor to the local community.

Peckham participated in every volunteer opportunity his unit offered, including activities such as the restoration of parks for two “Make a Difference Day” events, reading to children in the University Place library, and serving as a judge in a middle school science fair.

Peckham was recently sent to the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, in an interbrigade transfer, but he is still well-remembered at the 16th CAB headquarters.

“You could always count on Specialist Peckham to show up to every community outreach event we did,” said Army Capt. Deborah Chen, Peckham’s former company commander at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.

“It got to the point where I didn’t need to look for volunteer work; they’d come to me and ask if I’d help, so I’d say yes,” Peckham said.

Peckham helped his former company during its 2013 I Corps command inspection. When the company’s leadership needed a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear officer to ensure the company’s assets were ready for inspection, they turned to Peckham. Despite the additional duty being outside the scope of his job description and above his pay grade, Peckham worked countless overtime hours to fix deficiencies. Ultimately, the company earned a “commendable” rating in the inspection, and Peckham earned by-name recognition from the corps inspector.

But Peckham doesn’t just help out his unit; on his own initiative he also volunteers his spare time assisting the less fortunate.

“Helping the homeless is what always stays on my mind,” Peckham said, noting that he’s assisted with canned food drives for homeless shelters and has been a server in soup kitchens. “You really get to learn a lot about people when you help the homeless. Everybody has a different story to tell, and I like listening to every single one of them.”

Because of his military performance and volunteer work, Peckham was selected as I Corps’ nominee for the American Legion Spirit of Service Award, an award given by the American Legion every year to the soldier, airman, sailor, and Marine who best exemplify the spirit of service.

“I’ve never sought out recognition for what I do,” Peckham said. “I feel undeserving. To be selected out of all the people out here, … that’s a lot to put on somebody.”

As he reflected on his volunteer accomplishments, Peckham said at least one positive outcome occurred to him.

“If I get the award, maybe more people will ask me to do volunteer work,” he said. 

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