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Volunteering--What motivates you?

By Lt. Col. Bryan Patchen 2nd Bomb Wing Command Post

I just ran a marathon. Well, several actually. And some half marathons and triathlons. Why? To support those that can't.

Over the years, I've seen many people volunteer with many organizations. Some did it because they thought it would help their chances of promotion. Others did it because their supervisors made them do it. Then there were those that did it because they were connected to the cause in some way and enjoyed it. Those were the people that were truly inspiring and got me thinking.

As I considered volunteering, I realized it had to be something I enjoyed doing and meant something to me. If not, it would be too easy to skip an event or limit my involvement. So, I put in some effort and have found several different organizations were I've found I can help.

When I was stationed in Minot, I quickly became involved in Habitat for Humanity. To me this was a great opportunity to contribute to the community as a newcomer, and ease into volunteering. Many days were spent on building sites--swinging hammers, clearing debris, and figuring out how to make things come together. The work was hard, the days were long, but the cause was rewarding. When I left Minot I had directly contributed to providing homes to four different families--a worthy cause.

At Ramstein, I was faced with a cancer diagnosis and health crisis. It was during this trial that I found the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Initially, the organization gave me hope and got me moving. It was then I decided to pay them back--first as a grassroots fundraiser, then as a LIVESTRONG Leader. I ran marathons, raised money, and spread hope to those dealing with cancer. When I ran a race in honor of my friend Kim, she told me it meant the world to her. I continue supporting LIVESTRONG to this day, and will in the future since their mission is so important to cancer survivors like me. Bringing hope to those facing cancer--truly a worthy cause.

As I visited the US Hospital in Germany, I saw the demand for support for the wounded warriors returning from OEF. I was asked to donate blood, and ended up being a regular--donating platelets 20 times before I left--platelets that went directly from me to those in surgery across the street fighting for their lives. 2 hours for me translated to a lifetime for others--can't think of a more worthy cause.

My exposure to those returning from OEF/OIF opened the door for me to another great organization--Team Red, White, and Blue. Their mission is simple--To enrich the lives of veterans returning from overseas. Their impact, however, is anything but simple--especially for those with the "hidden" wounds from deployments--PTSD, depression, etc. I've dedicated myself to help stand up a local chapter in Shreveport to help those in the area who may not have a support structure in place--especially if they have recently separated from the military and are asking themselves "now what?" Taking care of our war veterans--definitely a worthy cause.

Every day we have conflicting demands for our time and attention. It is easy to put things off to tomorrow, or next month, or even next year. Having a group, organization, or cause to motivate you can help stop the procrastination and keep you focused. There is nothing special about me in finding these causes--I just took the time to look.

There are hundreds of worthy organizations out there that need volunteers. Sometimes they are obvious and it is easy for you to step up. Other times it takes some effort to discover how you can help. If you are interested in volunteering, somewhere there is an organization that needs your time and commitment. All you have to do is find it.