Quantico Volunteers Honored With Presidential Award
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., April 26, 2006 Volunteerism is at the heart of America, a Defense Department official said while honoring volunteers here yesterday.
Shannon Mancini (left) and Gina Narvaez speak to a L.I.N.K.S. class at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., April 25. The women received a Presidential Volunteer Service Award for their hours of volunteer service to the Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills program and other organizations. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Leslye Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, presented the President's Volunteer Service Awards to Shannon Mancini and Gina Narvaez for their volunteerism. The ceremony coincided with National Volunteer Week, April 24-28.
"It's one of those important characteristics of America that we appreciate and value people who use their time to serve others," she said.
The presidential award recognizes "the best in American spirit, and (is intended) to encourage all Americans to improve their communities through volunteer service and civic participation," according to the award Web site. Individuals, families and groups that demonstrate outstanding volunteer service and civic participation over the course of a 12-month period are eligible for the award.
Mancini, a 23-year Marine wife, has donated more than 7,500 volunteer hours to the Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills program. L.I.N.K.S. is a Marine Corps' family team building program. The 10-hour course offers Marine spouses an orientation to the Corps through spouse-to-spouse mentorship and small-group discussion.
For 15 years, she was a L.I.N.K.S. mentor and has served as a mentor manager for two years. For the past nine months she has also served as the on-installation trainer.
Mancini said she could get a job, but volunteering allows her flexibility. "I'm a clinical psychologist. Sure, I could get a job," she said.
But a full-time job comes with drawbacks.
"The difference is you could pick (a volunteer) opportunity, put as much time into it as you wanted or back off a little bit when you have other competing demands," Mancini said. "Still, the same reasons that drew you to this opportunity would be there (when you came back), and you're going to stick around longer because you can adjust the amount you give to that volunteer opportunity."
Like Mancini, Narvaez has donated thousands of hours to volunteer opportunities -- more than 6,000 in her lifetime.
Married to Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus Narvaez for eight years, she currently serves as the team leader for the L.I.N.K.S. program. Her job helps keep servicemembers and their families connected.
"I really saw there was the mission to empower military spouses, especially with the war going on and all the things you see and hear on TV," she said regarding the L.I.N.K.S. program. "Keeping the military spouses informed, ... getting them educated, and making them aware is really going to improve the Marine Corps and the lifestyle of our community."
In addition to her volunteerism, Narvaez is a certified childcare provider. Licensed through the Marine Corps, she has her own daycare center on base, she said.
The two women's spouses, Col. Rick Mancini and Staff Sgt. Narvaez, said their wives have always shared their talents through volunteering. Expressing pride in their wives, they said the honors were well-deserved.
"I think it's fantastic," Col. Mancini said of his wife's experience as a Marine Corps spouse and her willingness to share that experience. "I think it just adds so much more for (spouses) that they know that there's a support structure out there for them, ... but more importantly that (they know) the Marine Corps is a big family."
Joyce Murphy, Quantico's Marine family team building coordinator, said Narvaez and Mancini were the first two names that came to mind when she was asked to nominate award recipients. The time and, occasionally, financial sacrifices they have made left an impression, she said.
Murphy said the women are always there to assist her, exemplifying "Semper Gumby," Marine Corps slang for "always flexible."
"They are always there to provide opportunity to other spouses and to show spouses that there are positives in following your Marine here, there and everywhere," Murphy said, acknowledging the importance of the women's work. "Whereas Marines can go to boot camp ... and learn their skills to be a Marine, spouses don't have a location to go and learn about the Marine Corps and about how to be a military spouse."
That's what the L.I.N.K.S. program and the women's work is all about, she said.
Arsht said volunteers and their efforts are not only important for America, but for the military as well.
"It's nearly impossible to imagine being able to support all of our enterprises without the dedication of those members of the family who want to see the whole enterprise succeed," she said. "All of these individual acts are really another way of showing courage ... and other things that support servicemembers abroad."