Local woman volunteers time, named Texas Military Foundation director

By Clay Coppedge
Temple Daily Telegram

Julie Curtis-Win planted more seeds than she knew when she signed up for Texas A&M University's Master Gardener Class in 1997.

In addition to becoming a part of one of the state's most recognized Master Gardener groups, she began a relationship with the local military community. The relationship has blossomed into what, at this point has to be considered a full-time commitment.

To satisfy a requirement for 50 hours of community service, Ms. Curtis-Win worked with the Army's 62nd Engineer Battalion, 13th Corps Support Command at Fort Hood to set up an outdoor classroom at Thornton Elementary. Ms. Curtis-Win got a first-hand look at the peculiar circumstances soldiers face.

Never one to do things halfway or with only minimum of enthusiasm, Ms. Curtis-Win made sure the soldiers were taken care of. Soldiers never went back to Fort Hood hungry when she was around.

Much of the early work she did for the soldiers was done on her own, but she later joined forces with the Texas Military Family Foundation, which works to provide aid and comfort to soldiers and their families, especially in a time of war. She is now the foundation's executive director.

To Ms Curtis-Win's mind, she is only repaying a debt from the community. Many of these same soldiers appeared at area elementary schools after the September 11 attacks to reassure the children. The students were told not to be scared, that they were soldiers and they were there to protect them.

When the 62nd Engineer Battalion deployed in January, Ms. Curtis-Win took the news personally.

"I felt like I was losing 2000 kids," she says. "Most of the soldiers are my son's age, or younger."

The sight of all those young soldiers saying goodbye as they left on such a somber mission burned itself into her memory. She was there with 600 cookies. This would not be the last time, she realized.

The next week she began soliciting the community for meal money and care packages for the 2000 soldiers of the 13th COSCOM about to be deployed overseas.

In four days, she got everything she needed, except for potato chips. The Texas A&M University Medical School's Health Science Center came across with 2000 bags of potato chips, delivered gladly to Ms. Curtis-Win's door.

Deployments and homecomings have only increased since she put together the first care packages. She's there at all hours of the day and night, seeing troops off and welcoming them home.

"What gets me is when they come up and ask what they owe me," she says. "As if we could ever repay what we owe them."

The 4th Infantry Division is coming home and the 1st Cavalry Division is leaving. Because the number of volunteers has not increased in direct proportion, the foundation is asking for additional volunteers from the community.

A desire to help is the main requirement, but maybe not the only one.

"Sometimes you have to be a strong person to volunteer," Ms. Curtis-Win says. "There's been a time or two when I had to retreat to my car and cry. But it's not about us. We're just here to let them know the community is behind them. We're just a small part of something big.