The awards ceremony was over. Medals and certificates had been handed out, the band had played, attendees began leaving and, in her role as president of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Association Ozark Region Chapter, Sgt. 1st Class Desiree Hunt started to clean up the grounds Tuesday at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Plaza.
That’s when Hunt was asked to come to the podium, where senior leaders – who had just conducted the Sergeant Audie Murphy and Margaret C. Corbin awards ceremony – presented her with an honor she had no idea she had even been nominated to receive: the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
“Honestly, I was thrown for a loop,” said Hunt, whose nomination by post leadership was kept secret for several months.
“Not only was I speechless, but overwhelmed that I had been recommended,” Hunt said. “I could barely make eye contact with those who were present.”
Created in 2003 by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, the President’s Volunteer Service Award is a way for qualified organizations, including military installations, to recognize individuals whose service not only positively impacts their community, but also inspires those around them to take action.
Currently assigned to MSCoE Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Hunt has made volunteering a priority throughout her Army career, lending her talents and efforts to various shelters, schools and organizations and orchestrating numerous drives for food, clothing and school supplies. Over the past 18 months, she has worked to raise more than $10,000 to assist 350 families with meals at Thanksgiving, provided more than 500 children with Christmas gifts, assisted with raising funds for school trips, scholarships and more.
“I have been blessed to be a part of several associations that emphasize the importance of giving back and helping those around you,” she said, noting that in addition to her duties with the local SAMA chapter, she also serves as vice president of the Mid Missouri Association of the United States Army Young Professionals.
Originally from Chandler, Arizona, Hunt joined the Army right out of high school in 2004, inspired by both her family’s military background and skepticism about her potential as a Soldier expressed by some of her friends and classmates — which she took as a challenge.
“For other people to tell me that I’m not capable of something — that goes against my nature,” she said. “Sixteen years later, I’m pleased to say I’ve proved a lot people wrong. I wouldn’t change my career path for the world.”
For Hunt, the skills and discipline she has earned in the Army have also helped make her a better volunteer.
“Being an effective volunteer directly depends on being able to prioritize and understand time management,” she explained. “Had it not been for several leaders throughout my career taking the time to educate me on those aspects within the Army I would not be considered an effective volunteer.”
Hunt believes that volunteerism has made her a better person, helped her keep things in perspective and served as an example for other Soldiers. She also emphasized that none of her volunteer projects were done alone.
“I may have been presented with this award, but by no means did I do this on my own,” she said. “For those who allowed me the time to volunteer, understand the importance of why I volunteer – and for those who have volunteered with me, I say ‘thank you.’ I couldn’t have done this without them.”