Spouse wins top volunteer awards
U.S. troops stopping at Morón Air Base, Spain, on their way to war earlier this year might remember Sandy Rodriguez.
If they don’t, they will likely remember her rice crispy squares and brownies.
Rodriguez along with a handful of spouses stationed at Morón served baked goods to about 60,000 troops between December 2002 and September of this year. It was part of what they called Operation Taste of Home.
Baking for troops, however, is just one of the many volunteer duties Rodriguez has tackled in the past year.
The National Military Family Association — a nonprofit military family booster organization — recognized Rodriguez earlier this year by selecting her as one of the armed forces’ 15 best volunteers worldwide. The association selected her as one of five recipients of the 2003 Very Important Patriot Award of Honor. This month, Air Forces in Europe nominated her for an individual honor associated with the 2004 Commander-in-Chief Installation Excellence awards.
“I don’t feel worthy,” she said of the special recognition. “I just help.”
On a small base that heavily relies on its volunteers, Rodriguez is a familiar face always willing to lend a helping hand.
“Sandra’s contributions, leadership, and can-do attitude are an inspiration for both military and civilian personnel,” the association said in a statement. “Her eagerness and excellence in volunteerism make her an invaluable asset to her community.”
Morón — a small Spanish base southeast of Seville with a little more than 100 U.S. active-duty servicemembers – served as a major stopping point for cargo planes traveling to and from the Middle East leading up to and during the war.
Rodriguez and her husband, Senior Master Sgt. Marc Rodriguez, have been stationed at the base for 21 months. Since they arrived in southern Spain, Sandy Rodriguez has volunteered.
In addition to being the Catholic lay leader, she agreed to take over additional duties at the chapel when the Air Force deployed the base chaplain’s assistant. She also serves as a test proctor and teaches free country-dance lessons. Earlier this year, she helped convert a water storage warehouse into a 120-bed overflow sleeping quarters for troops passing through Morón.
“I’m a little bit of a workaholic,” she said.
Rodriguez, who served 13 years in the Air Force, is best known for helping bake thousands of goodies for transient troops. Spouses Billie Crum and Tressie Lamars came up with the idea of Operation Taste of Home during the buildup for the war last December.
As the number of troops increased, they worked around the clock to make rice crispy squares, cupcakes, cookies and popcorn for each servicemember.
Some troops returning from Iraq remembered the baked goods and have expressed their appreciation to Rodriguez and the other spouses. She said the group could not have served as many troops without the help of others on base.
“We were very blessed with the generosity of many people at that time,” Rodriguez said.