|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Martin Luther King Jr. is noted not only for his role in improving
justice and equality in the U.S., but also advocating service to improve
the quality of life for Americans, said Brian Blahnik, the guest speaker
at Fort McCoy’s Jan. 4 observance of King’s birthday.
Brian Blahnik, director of the
Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps, addresses members of the Fort
McCoy community during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance
at the installation. Blahnik spoke about how people can serve
their communities and make them better.
(Photo by Val Hyde)
Blahnik, director of the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps, said people
should not think of the King holiday observance Jan. 17 as a day off,
but as a day on to serve their fellow human beings.
Blahnik has served others throughout his life, including eight years in
the Army National Guard, with two years of active duty serving in
Many people in the Fort McCoy community are familiar with Blahnik and
his volunteer role in coordinating the Fox Valley Cadets, which host an
obstacle course during the installation’s celebration of Armed Forces
Day Open House. He said they will return in May.
“King died as he was on his way to go support the sanitation people and
their service (in Memphis),” Blahnik said. King said, “‘Life’s most
persistent and urgent questions is: What are you doing for others.’”
Volunteer efforts can range from a one-time activity to a long-term
event. Blahnik said there are many opportunities for people in the Fort
McCoy community and beyond to get involved.
One place is to assist 50,000 youth who have fallen through the cracks
despite the best efforts of the schools. Volunteers can serve as role
models or mentors and share their values and morals.
People in the Fort McCoy community can bring their knowledge of Army
Values — Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and
Personal Courage — to help make their volunteer efforts a success.
At Fort McCoy, the volunteer program falls under Army Community Service
(ACS). Lorie Retzlaff is the ACS Army Volunteer Corps program manager.
People who are interested in volunteering on Fort McCoy should call ACS
at 608-388-3505 to learn about volunteer requirements and procedures.
In the Fort McCoy community, people can help volunteer to mentor
ChalleNGe Academy cadets or help an Army Family, Blahnik said. Moving
farther out into the communities are opportunities to serve meals at the
Salvation Army, help with the Special Olympics or learn about the Great
Rivers United Way programs or the Scenic Bluffs Red Cross disaster
Several websites also can provide useful information about volunteer
opportunities, such as http://mlkday.gov
and http://www.serve.gov, Blahnik
“Many agencies out there could use your help,” he said. “You bring
experience and skills they can’t pay for. You can help these agencies
become a power-projection platform and provide force-multiplier
It’s estimated that each hour of volunteer work provides a benefit of
$22 an hour, he said.
Blahnik learned about the power and value of community service at an
early age. His volunteer efforts in middle school, high school and
college have helped lead to his jobs, he said. People who serve make an
impact and help improve their communities.
Baby boomers, especially, have needed skills and as retirement looms in
the near future, time on their hands, to share their experience and
skills. They had a plan to achieve a successful career and can implement
those same planning skills to have a successful career as a volunteer,
“Volunteering is like a job,” Blahnik said. “There are opportunities and
challenges and great rewards and sadness.”
The next Fort McCoy ethnic observance, African-American History Month,
will be Thursday, Feb. 3 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at McCoy’s, building
1571. For more information, call the Equal Opportunity Adviser at