13 SC(E) Spouse Receives National Military Family Association Award
By Spc. Fabian Ortega
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) PAO
“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together,” words once spoken by poet and humanist, Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
If Goethe was indeed correct, Felicia Villarreal’s kindness is the golden chain that has bound together many military families for nearly two decades.
According to friends and family, Villarreal has spent the better part of 15 years working with military families through the Family Readiness Group and its functions.
Villarreal, a native of San Antonio, has served as a military spouse for 15 years alongside her husband, Staff Sgt. Rudy C. Villarreal Jr. with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, 13thSustainment Command (Expeditionary).
During recent announcement of the annual National Military Family Association awards, Villarreal was recognized nationally for her volunteer work with military families and her surrounding community.
Villarreal was awarded the Very Important Patriot Award of Merit. She was presented the VIP Award of Merit at the 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion Headquarters building by members of the NMFA on October 18.
The VIP Award of Merit is one of three VIP awards given by the NMFA to five volunteers.
The award recognizes exceptional volunteers worldwide whose outstanding service contributes to improving the quality of life in their military and neighboring communities, said Michelle S. Joyner, Director of Communications for the NMFA.
The mother of two middle school aged children, Cassandra G. Villarreal and Rudy G. Villarreal III, Felicia was thrilled and surprised to learn of being nominated and winning the award, she said.
“I was shocked. I had to sit down. I have received awards but something like (the VIP Award of Merit), it’s unbelievable,” said Felicia. “To be nominated and then be chosen is very special.”
In all her excitement, the first people Felicia contacted were two of her former Family Readiness Group colleagues, Angie Fahl and Jennifer See.
Husband Rudy took third place in that category.
Felicia called her friends first before her husband, an understanding Rudy said.
Fahl and See were equally excited about the award, said Felicia.
“Angie and Jenn were so ecstatic; they were jumping up and down,” said the San Antonio native.
Felicia was nominated by Fahl and See; who both helped write a narrative and submitted it to the NMFA for the nomination.
“Felicia was nominated by someone in her community, and then the nomination went before a panel of judges where she was judged using a blind format,” said the Director of Communications for the NMFA.
The judging process began before the judges received nominations. Nominations, only accepted online, were to be a 500-750 word narrative and anything less was automatically eliminated.
The panel of active NMFA members judged the narratives using a “blind”, name and identities blocked-out, format, according to the NMFA.
Judges based their decision on the impact the volunteer has had on the community.
Both Fahl and See agreed that Felicia’s commitment toward her family, military family and community, sometimes at the risk of her own health, compelled them to nominate Felicia.
Fahl confessed she did a little more than jump up and down when Felicia called with news.
“I was so excited for her I cried. I still get teary eyed when I think about it. She is very deserving of this award,” said Fahl.
Felicia deals with physical ailments, from complications with Lupus, Glaucoma, and more recently, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease stage II.
“Its all about the soldiers and their families,” said Fahl. “She gives from the heart not expecting anything in return. She drives on without giving a second thought to her numerous physical debilitating limitations,” she said.
Fahl said when health was an issue, “Felicia continued her work by simply picking up a phone, sending an e-mail or delegating tasks to other FRG members.”
Felicia served as the FRG leader from 2004-2006 for the 126th Forward Surgical Team, 1st Med. Brigade, 13thSC (E), where she logged more than 1,000 volunteer hours during the unit’s first deployment to Iraq (for six months) and subsequently Afghanistan.
“Felicia spent her time and energy, putting together information packets for the families of the deploying soldiers,” said Fahl. “Felicia kept the lines of communication open between her families, rear detachment and the command team.”
Felicia also sent numerous care packages to celebrate special occasions, and as the deployment came to an end, Felicia sent “Soldiers Survival Kit” for morale, said Fahl.
“When some of our Soldiers came home through the Killeen airport, she gathered a group to greet them with signs and applause,” Fahl said.
Not forgetting the single Soldiers, Felicia made sure single Soldiers did not return to empty rooms. Felicia along with fellow FRG members were ready for their arrival with plenty of goodies, signs, balloons and a freshly made bed.
In this period, Felicia received the Volunteer Merit award, Volunteer of the Quarter for the Ft. Hood community, and the Yellow Rose of Texas for what was described by her peers as a contribution of endless time, energy, and effort to the community.
Rudy believes his wife’s awards are well deserved, he said.
“Felicia was always there for the unit and for the FRG. People thanked me for Felicia’s help,” he said. “While we were deployed (Doctors) would come up to me and say ‘thanks for keeping my wife informed; thank your wife for the toys my children received’, Rudy proudly said.
“The unit was very happy with all the support from the FRG and Felicia,” said Rudy.
For all the support Felicia helped provide to other families, it leaves one to wonder if there was anytime dedicated to supporting her loved one during deployments, Rudy.
The loving husband answered that question with a big exclamation.
“Oh yes!” said a light-hearted Rudy. “I received tons of care packages, love letters, family photos, emails and food (during deployment).” “(Felicia) was always there for me,” said Rudy.
While Rudy believes the awards were well deserved, a self-effacing Felicia said all her volunteerism was done from sheer compassion and was not meant to win awards.
“I don’t look for awards,” said Felicia. “I do this because I care about the Soldiers and families; I do this from the heart.” “I feel like I have made a difference in the lives of military families.”
Felicia has some, particularly two, who object to her modesty.
“My mom deserves this award a lot,” said son, Rudy III, A.K.A Tre, speaking of the VIP Award of Merit. “(Mom) has been doing (volunteer work) for a long time,” said Tre.
Tre’s younger sister, Cassie, agreed with him 100 percent.
“My mom enjoys helping people, a lot,” said the soft spoken youngster. “She succeeds at it too.”