Story and photos by Staff Sgt. De'Jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard
LAREDO, Texas – Along the south Texas border Guard Members put in many hours of their off time to serve the communities they now call home.
Although many of the soldiers and airmen assigned to the border mission are far from their homes, they have still found a way to give back the new communities they now call, home.
Texas National Guard members come together to volunteer their time in their new local community in Laredo, Texas.
“I actually feel like I’m more a part of the community around me,” said Master Sgt. Brian Franck. “I’m constantly trying to recruit people to volunteer and give back to the community down here in Laredo.”
Franck started the mission August 2019 and quickly got to work, looking for opportunities to help the community.
September, he began volunteering at the Laredo Animal Protective Society (LAPS).
“I was informed about a volunteer opportunity at LAPS,” said Franck. “I talked to some other Soldiers I work with and we started walking dogs and volunteering. I then informed the Laredo Company and my platoon about this opportunity.”
Franck went on to say the Company sent out an email about two volunteer opportunities, he then pushed the email to his fellow soldiers and they then began volunteering at many other companies throughout the Laredo area.
November 2019 was the second volunteer opportunity he had, but first with the local Habitat for Humanity (H4H).
“I was told on Veteran’s Day they were going to start building a house for a Texas veteran,” said Franck. “So, I showed up, found out I was the only one representing the National Guard down here to help start building on the veteran’s home. From that day habitat started to coordinate with me on their build days and needing volunteers.”
Franck and his team helped H4H build two homes since he began volunteering.
“After this point, the company sort of appointed me as the volunteer point of contact,” Franck said. “I was informing them of events and being there if a Soldier said they would be there to introduce them to the organization staff.”
Franck has worked hard to recruit 36 other soldiers in his company to help in the Laredo community. Together they have logged more than 1,600 hours of volunteering.
“I got started through Master Sgt. Franck,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Frost. “I heard about the volunteer programs that we can get involved with here in Laredo. He was the man people said to go to. I’ve been working with LAPS and Habitat for Humanity whenever I can.”
Frost, who is a squad leader with Team Laredo went on to talk about how much he enjoys volunteering at LAPS and helping with the animals.
“I take Tyson out to North Park because they have a dog park there,” said Frost. “He’s a brindle Pit Bull with tiger like stripes. I picked him because pits have a bad rap and he’s done great with me in public.”
Even a pandemic has not stopped these soldiers from continuing to do their part. Despite COVID-19, soldiers in Laredo still do their part to help the community.
“COVID-19 has made it, first where we could not volunteer,” said Franck. “Then for habitat only five volunteers at a time, but for the past months if we are staying away from the general population and working on projects, a small group of us can be there to volunteer. COVID-19 has put a damper on volunteering, but it has not stopped our soldiers from being able to give back to the community of Laredo.”
Team Laredo Soldiers continue to work with these organizations despite the recent pandemic. COVID-19 has not lessened the spirit of Franck who continues to put in time with these organizations.
“Honestly, I wish people would go back to the way it used to be,” Franck said. “Where we were not so focused on ourselves, per se, but more focused on helping each other. When people come down on these missions, they can experience what’s going on in the communities and be a part of the communities because while you’re down here, this is your home.”
Franck went on to say that he’s thankful for the opportunity to work with these organizations, without them and their volunteer programs this would not be possible.