The Iron Mike Award for Volunteer Service Gold Star is an elite award presented by the Army Volunteer Corps to any adult who has a minimum of 1,000 documented volunteer hours (500 for youth). In an award ceremony at the Iron Mike Conference Center, Nov. 2, Josette Van Pelt received the Gold Star for her contributions to four organizations — the 82nd Airborne Division; 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade; 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment; and the Gordon Elementary School Parent Teacher Association.

Other Iron Mike awards are the Iron Mike lapel pin, awarded to adults with a minimum of 300 hours and youth with 150 hours; Iron Mike Bronze Star, for 500 minimal adult hours of service and youth with at least 250 hours; and the Iron Mike Silver Star awarded for 750 adult-service hours and 400 youth-service hours.

Volunteers impact peoples’ lives forever, said Justin Mitchell, Fort Bragg Garrison deputy commander. With budget cuts, the work they do is even more important.

“You’re (volunteers are) worth twice your weight in platinum,” Mitchell said. “You are filling a gap that we could never pay for — that we could never fill.”

April Sanchez, a Fort Bragg Family member, received the Iron Mike lapel pin. She said she has volunteered on the yearbook committee at Gordon Elementary School and as a teacher’s aide with Catholic Faith Formation.

Time is free so it’s important to volunteer, said Sanchez.

“It’ll teach my kids that they have to give back in order for our communities to run,” she said.

Capt. (Chaplain) Oleksandr Ishchuk, assigned to the 330th Transportation Battalion, attended the ceremony along with son, Miroslav, 16 months, to show support to his wife, MaArra, a battalion volunteer.

“My wife is an amazing partner in ministry. If there’s a need to be fulfilled, she’s there,” he said. “(She’s giving) time and money. She doesn’t hold anything back.”

Additionally, Ishchuk said he values the support of battalion leadership and of Fort Bragg leadership because it makes it easy for volunteers to give back.

It’s a value illustrated by the support and attendance at the ceremony of Melissa Townsend, wife of Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, Fort Bragg and XVIII Airborne Corps.

“This shows that our senior command spouses support our Soldiers and their Families and what they’re doing to give back on post,” Townsend said. “We think what they’re doing is important.”

AVC, a component of Army Community Service, is tasked with coordinating and placing volunteers. Its office is located in the Soldier Support Center (Building 4-2843 Normandy Drive). For more information, call 396-8160 or visit