By Omar Hernandez
Public Affairs Specialist
The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Family Programs Directorate recently honored UTSA student Jeremy Barnhart, his wife Katrina Barnhart and their children Logan Ricketts, Kayleigh Barnhart, Colton Barnhart and Brayden Barnhart as the 2011 recipients of the AUSA Volunteer Family of Year Award. The award recognizes exceptional families whose volunteerism has contributed significantly to the well being of the Army community.
As recipients of this year’s AUSA award, the Barnhart family received a trip to Washington, D.C., a cash prize and a gift basket courtesy of TriWest, AUSA and other sponsors.
A UTSA senior biology major, Jeremy Barnhart is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and is a Purple Heart recipient because of severe wounds suffered in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon his return to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Barnhart immersed himself in volunteer activities. He served as the noncommissioned officer in charge and musical director of Fort Carson’s Harmony in Motion.
He gave time to the local Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) and spent numerous hours mentoring young people about life and career choices, as they make the transition from juvenile correctional facilities. Barnhart also enjoys serving as a youth soccer coach and a volunteer cub master and den leader with the Cub Scouts. He coordinated the “Make a Difference Day,” volunteered at National Night Out, and participates with Thanksgiving pumpkin and toy give-a-way programs during the holidays.
"After being wounded in Iraq, I had a long recovery process that is still ongoing," said Barnhart. "Volunteering to help Army families and the community in general really makes me feel like I can do something worthwhile, even if I can’t go back to the fight. Helping others has a healing effect on me, and I would encourage anyone to find opportunities in their communities to help out. It makes me feel good to give back to all the people who have given so much to me."
Katrina Barnhart has helped the lives of soldiers and their families as well. While her husband was deployed multiple times, she was the key person in re-activating the dormant Enlisted Spouses Charitable Organization (ESCO) that became a thriving organization to assist soldiers, families and the local community. Her leadership was instrumental in promoting Parent-to-Parent (P2P) programs to provide emotional and informational support for families with special-needs children at Fort Carson, Colo., and across the country.
When the 4ID was moved from Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Carson, Katrina began the initiative to provide coats for soldiers and families to help them make the transition from the warm climate of Central Texas to the much colder temperatures in Colorado.
"Being an Army spouse is tough and lonely at times, but getting out into the community helps you to meet new people and become a part of something better," she said. "Volunteering is a way of making your community a better place to live in, and it gives you a sense of purpose."