Story by Staff Sgt. De'jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard
WESLACO, Texas – The National Guard is a volunteer force of Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen who give their one weekend a month and two weeks a year to service.
One Texas National Guard Soldier serving with Operation Guardian Support (OGS) along the south Texas border, gives back to her community as a Citizen-Soldier and volunteer.
Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla, a combat medic specialist (68W), continues to give back to her local community with her volunteer efforts.
"I feel like I'm capable of helping others," said Quintanilla. "Why not? I have all my limbs; I have everything; some people need a little more help than others."
Wanting to give back and helping others started after hearing some shocking information from her younger sister, who was being bullied. She felt the need to speak up and do her part to help her sister and other young people.
She volunteered with local schools through the Helping Everyone Achieve Respect (H.E.A.R.) program speaking with local high schools about bullying.
She said it started with her sister telling her that she was getting bullied; this was information she did not like hearing. She went on to say that she went out to local high schools, conducted surveys and PowerPoints as to why it is not OK to bully.
Quintanilla went on to say that after putting in that effort, her sister felt a lot better. She did it for her and was she proud it made a change.
Her call to action did not stop there; she also volunteered with the Pharr Fire Department.
"I felt like I had too much downtime," Quintanilla said. "I was like, 'OK, I can do something.' I've always liked to be busy. I'm on the go and always have something to do. For example, firefighting was a great way to keep my fitness up and help people out in a way and have connections. It was just fun overall and it made me feel good."
Quintanilla has completed more than 150 hours with the fire department, 130 hours with H.E.A.R. She was able to earn her Certified Nurse Aide License after volunteering 40 hours at a local nursing home. Quintanilla has also volunteered her time with the U.S. Border Patrol at a community service event at the local Boys and Girls Club, helping get school supplies to less fortunate children. Overall, she has accumulated more than 500 hours of volunteer time in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
"She's a great Soldier," said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Murrell, "She has a great work ethic, always striving to make herself better. She's one of the few that I've always seen constantly giving up her time to make herself and everyone else better."
Murrell, who is Quintanilla's platoon sergeant, went on to describe her volunteer efforts as constant. Saying she has come to him multiple times about what she can do to make her community better and what she can do to make herself better.
Moving forward, Quintanilla plans to go back to school to finish her bachelor's degree and join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
"I decided to go to school, do ROTC and become an officer," said Quintanilla. "I'm going into the ROTC program and sign my contract this August after I get off mission. I'm looking at it as a good way to become a lieutenant and motivate my troops to become volunteers."
Many OGS Soldiers along the south Texas border have gone above and beyond answering the call to service to continue to volunteer and give back to their communities, Quintanilla is no exception.
"I thank God every day for giving me another chance to be here," She said. "There is a quote 'you make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give,' I live by this every day volunteering as a way to give my gratitude for having a chance to be here."