Guard youth honored for service to others
By Capt. Renee T. Lillis, 111th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 05, 2009
WILLOW GROVE AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- -- When not texting each other - you would expect most bored teenagers to daydream about things like what to wear to prom or about the car they will drive when they turn 16. But then, Jaclyn Gyger - daughter of Staff Sgt. Susanne Gyger, 111th Fighter Wing Chaplain's assistant - is not like most teenagers.
One day, Jaclyn drifted off wondering how injured veterans pass the time at medical centers or nursing homes. She imagined that in addition to watching TV and movies, they'd probably read books or magazines. But what if they couldn't read a book? What if they couldn't turn the pages or see the words? And so, after a little more thought and a talk with her mom (who liked her initiative but said she still needed to pay more attention in class), Jaclyn began collecting audio books for veterans and seniors at a local nursing home.
For this act, and many others, Jaclyn was nominated for the 2008 National Guard Youth of the Year Award and was recognized by the wing on Jan. 10 with an Air Force Services Youth of the Year Certificate of Appreciation and Services coin.
The 15-year-old, Dauphin High School student began actively supporting Family Readiness events more than five years ago. She also volunteers by organizing care packages for troops in the Middle East and making blankets for wounded veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center, Washington D.C.
"Having a single mom who deployed when I was younger made me want to do something to show that I really care about people who are in the military."
Gyger is a Senior Master Sergeant in the Civil Air Patrol and is a member of the Air Force Association and Speak Out for Military Kids, an organization that raises community awareness of the issues military families and children face.
A typical week for Gyger includes Tuesdays at Country Meadows Nursing Home, Wednesdays at Civil Air Patrol and Sundays actively participating at her church. She spends her holidays at Bethesda Mission Homeless Shelter and the Harrisburg Soup Kitchen. When she learned the soup kitchen was low on food, she came up with a plan to put large food donation barrels on busy street corners to help collect the needed food. No easy task, Gyger met with then Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Knoll to get approval for her plan and ended up collecting more than 800 lbs of food for the Kitchen.
Gyger credits her mother with instilling the compassion and sense of service that drives her volunteerism and would like to follow in her mother's military foot steps. She has her sights set on the Air Force Academy and would like to be a pilot one day. "I can see myself at 80 years old and still wanting to help people," she added.