Navy A02 Diedre Williams made this year’s volunteerism on Thanksgiving Day a family affair with her mother and sister who were visiting for the holidays from California.
Williams, along with about 30 sailors from Naval Air Station Fallon and other veterans and residents, volunteered to package Thanksgiving meals and then deliver them to the county’s senior citizens as part of the Meals on Wheels program. Every year, American Legion Post 16 prepares about 116 holiday meals and then has volunteers deliver the meals within the city and to almost every part of the county.
“It’s a holiday, and I want to give back, come here and give people a smile,” said Williams, who lives in Fernley with her husband.
Williams, who grew up in Placerville, Calif., left Norfolk, Va., last year and headed to Fallon. She works with the Naval Munitions Command CONUS West Division Det., but after seven years, William said she’s happy to return to the West — and closer to home.
Vickie Fleischer said she wanted to volunteer with her daughter and experience the community outreach. Williams’ sister, Jennifer, lives in San Jose, Calif., and also made the 5-hour trek to central Nevada to be with the family.
Williams said she also will help the Nevada Veterans Coalition with Wreaths Across America in December, a national program that honors the servicemen and women by having volunteers place wreaths on veterans’ gravesites. She also plans to help package Christmas dinners because her husband works the day after the Tuesday holiday.
Another sailor who has been in Fallon for about a year is A01 Jakob Parks of Enfield, Connecticut. Because Parks’ family lives in New England, he rarely travels home for the holidays; instead, he remains at his duty station and helps by volunteering.
“The community is great, the duty station is amazing,” he said of his time in Fallon. “I enjoy the camaraderie at the base.”
Parks said he also has volunteered in the youth softball snack shack and was involved with last year’s Meals on Wheels during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“This is an opportunity to give back 100 percent,” he said. “The community has taken us in, and I feel part of the community.”
A01 Michael Anderson, chapter president of the Association of Aviation Ordnancemen Chapter 16, said this is his first time to volunteer during Thanksgiving. He also volunteered at the Kiwanis pancake breakfast on Labor Day and the Churchill County Parks and Recreation haunted house.
“Always give back, plain and simple,” he said.
Army veteran Roy Miller retired in Fallon. He served as an airborne ranger and completed two tours at Fort Bragg, N.C., spent time at the U.S. Army Garrison in Vincenza, Italy and attended the Jungle Operations Training Course (JOTC) at Fort Sherman, Panama.
“I heard they needed help, so I decided to volunteer,” Miller said before the volunteers stood in line to fill the Styrofoam containers.
Afterward, Miller also received a list of meals to be delivered.
Fallon resident Brandon Hartweg served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years before returning home.
“As a vet, give it back, pay it forward,” he said.
Likewise, Fallon native Crystal Kontny returned to Nevada in 2017 and works in aviation ordnance. During the past year, she volunteered at the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival, the craft fair at the senior center and Rattlesnake Raceway, where she also raced.
Kylee Archer Freeman graduated from Churchill County High School in 2005. Her husband, a sailor, retires in March.
“We’re volunteering and want to do this every year and bring the kids,” she said. “It’s a good way to give back.”
Lance McNeil, an Air Force veteran and longtime member of Post 16, has organized the holiday meals for many years with fellow veterans.
“We had an idea of the number of volunteers the Navy was providing, he said. “The Navy called and asked what time do you want us here?”
McNeill said having sailors volunteer every Thanksgiving and Christmas gets the military more involved with the community.