Dedicated Military Supporter Helps Out Soldiers, Veterans and Their Families

Daily Point of Light # 7779 Mar 29, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Cathy Howell. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Cathy Howell has been dedicated to helping the military and military families for decades as a volunteer, a military spouse and a Department of the Army civilian. She currently serves as the physical security branch chief at Fort Carson. Her husband, an Apache helicopter pilot for the Army, retired in 2019 but continues to work on base with his wife. Cathy started sending care packages when her husband was deployed and continued to do long after his return. It brings the comforts of home to soldiers who leave the “normalcy” of daily life to fight for a greater cause. On the home front, she has cared for their families as part of the Soldier and Family Readiness Group, allowing soldiers to focus on the mission at hand.

Cathy’s skills and status as a government civilian also allowed her to volunteer to serve in Afghanistan for a year working beside deployed soldiers to provide force protection. It was a move she made to show her support but also to add firsthand knowledge when she spoke of the sacrifices that troops were making upon her return. In an effort to spread awareness of what they do and to drum up support, Cathy participates in pageants and speaking engagements with her platform, “Operation Leave No Military Behind”. At the end of the day, her own security team—her three dogs, aptly named General, Captain and Army—follow her example of unending dedication, loyalty and moral support.

Cathy volunteers with Mt. Carmel Veteran’s Center, an organization that provides veterans with support as they transition to civilian life, get a job, address their mental health and wellbeing and more.

What inspires you to volunteer?

I’ve always enjoyed helping others, and being able to help those sacrifice so much for us in an honor. My Dad served in WWII in Japan. My husband served in the Army for 28 years, and I’ve worked as a Department of the Army civilian for 33. Being in the military is a tough but rewarding job. It’s hard being away from your family and friends for long periods of time. Our military and their families make personal sacrifices everyday so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice and need to be remembered every day.

Tell us about your volunteer role as a Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader.

As a Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader, I was the point of contact for other military spouses who may need assistance. I shared information and resources, taking care of the spouses while the military member was in training or deployed. I also sent care packages to our troops.

I work with other agencies like Mt. Carmel Veterans Center and Healing Warriors to provide support and resources to our military and their families. I use the pageants to get my platform out to a larger audience in different states. A lot of organizations unaffiliated with the military aren’t even aware that we still have troops deployed.

What are some things people might not know or understand about soldiers who are deployed and what they—or their families—might need?

Being deployed, you can sometimes be gone from family and friends for over nine months. You can be in locations where you can’t get simple things like toothpaste and shampoo. We take it for granted living here in the United States, where we can walk into a store and pick them up. Sending care packages and thank you cards means the world to them. I buy birthday cards and Christmas cards, for them to send back to their families. Sometimes troops don’t have access to those or the time to go get them from the local USO while they’re gone.

For families left behind, it can be hard as well. Spouses are on their own. They must deal with whatever happens the best way they can. For example, if the washer and dryer break down, what do they do? They may not have the money to replace it. If you have a washer and dryer that is in good condition, think about donating it to a military family. If you see a military family in a restaurant, think about saying thank you by paying for their meal.

You can Google how to help local military families in your area. You can also contact the USO, American Legion, Disabled American Vets, Veterans of Foreign Wars and a military base that may be close to you. At Christmas time, consider donating toys on base. There are lots of ways to help.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part is the people I get to meet. Once, when I was competing in the Mrs. Colorado Pageant, we had the opportunity to visit the VA Clinic in Denver. I met a Vietnam veteran there who had served in the Navy, losing both legs and some fingers on one hand. We started talking and he said, “Thank you for not letting them forget about us.” That’s why I do what I do.

Cathy, a long-time volunteer, rides on the Mt. Carmel Veteran’s Center St. Patrick’s Day float.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I’ve had the honor to meet some very important individuals who have played a critical role in our nation’s defense. I’ve also had the opportunity to help military families that are trying their best to make it, one day at a time, while their loved one is deployed. Being able to help someone in need is important, and seeing the smiles on their faces because they know that they’re not alone is a wonderful feeling.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

I’m always ready whenever someone needs my assistance. I’m going to be working with Honor Flight—an organization that flies veterans to D.C. to see the memorials put up in their honor—this year, and I’ll continue to work with Mt. Carmel Veterans Center and other local agencies to help prevent soldier suicide.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

I think God sends our military to be our guardian angels. Our military and their families make daily sacrifices for us, and it’s important to thank them every day, not just on certain holidays.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Cathy? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Kristin Park