Heroism takes many forms. This week’s Guardians of the Week are heroes not for their bravery and sacrifice on the battlefield but for their exceptional dedication and service to the community.
The Udland family – Aaron, Shannon and their children – daughter Sierra, 15, sons Michael, 15, and Michael, 12 and daughter Austyn, 10 months – were awarded for their community and volunteer work. Most notably they were recognized for their commitment in support of the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life” fundraising campaign.
As a part of the award, the family received a trip to Washington, DC to attend the National Military Family Association’s 40th Anniversary Celebration on October 28, and was presented the 2009 Coast Guard Family of the Year award by Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen.
“It’s a phenomenal honor to be recognized as the Coast Guard Family of the Year,” said Petty Officer Udland. “As a large organization with over 40,000 people, we’re extremely proud to be chosen to represent the families of the Coast Guard.”
Shannon became involved as a volunteer in the Relay for Life event in 2004 while attending community college in Valdez, AK. Her entire family soon joined in. “We enjoy doing things as a family and this was another activity that we could do together,” said Shannon.
Since then, Aaron, Shannon and their family have taken on greater volunteer roles and responsibilities in Relay for Life events. In 2006, Shannon served as Event Chair for the Relay for Life event in Valdez and has served as the Luminaria Chair for the event in Juneau since 2007. She also served as Team Captain for the Relay for Life team at work.
In 2008, Aaron served as Youth Chair in Juneau and co-captained the Coast Guard Station Juneau Relay for Life team the same year. In 2009, Aaron served as Mission Delivery Chair for the Juneau event.
The Udland children have been right beside them in their efforts, helping with preparations, volunteering at events and cleaning up when everyone else has gone home. In 2008, 15-year-old daughter Sierra started the first teenager Relay for Life team in Juneau.
Aaron thanks the Coast Guard for their support of his volunteer efforts. “Every command I’ve been at has been extremely helpful and understands that volunteer efforts help build a strong bond with the community,” Aaron said.
Other charities and activities that the Udlands are involved in include the United Way and local environmental cleanup efforts.
Mixing all of this with two full-time careers and raising a family might seem like a lot of work but Aaron insists the family’s hectic schedule is part of the plan.
“We like to stay busy,” he said. “It’s easy to get focused on what we are doing as individuals but this helps maintain balance by being a part of something that’s much bigger than ourselves.”
The Udlands are gearing up for the 2010 Relay for Life event in mid-July and look forward to continuing their community volunteer efforts.
Bravo Zulu and Semper Paratus to these Guardian “heroes” for their inspiring contributions to the Coast Guard, their community and the nation.
Do you know someone in the Coast Guard that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week using the submit button at the top of the page.