NEWS | Feb. 22, 2019

VNG family, youth volunteer receive national recognition for volunteer service

By Cotton Puryear JFHQ Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia National Guard family was recognized as the 2018 Army National Guard Family of the Year and a volunteer was recognized with the Extra Mile Award in an announcement published Feb. 13, 2019, by Maj. Gen. Kevin L. McNeely, the Director of J1 Manpower and Personnel at National Guard Bureau.

The Martin family of Joshua, Lauren, Lehua and KJ Martin were recognized at the Army National Guard Family of the Year for demonstrating outstanding and exceptional service to Family Programs. Joshua Martin is a Virginia Army National Guard chief warrant officer 3 who serves as a training officer in the G3 state training and operations directorate and Lauren Martin serves as a civilian budget analyst in the G3 and also as a sergeant first class in the Virginia Army National Guard in a traditional Guard status.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb was announced as the recipient of the Extra Mile Award that recognizes a retiree who distinguishes themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to Family Programs by continuing to serve the National Guard through their volunteer efforts.

“The Virginia National Guard could not perform its mission without the support of our tireless volunteers,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “The Martins and Carl Holcomb are stellar examples of the tremendous impact made by our volunteers, and we are so proud to see them recognized at the national level for their hard work. Their service sets an example for other to follow.”

Joe Duerksen, VNG Youth Programs coordinator, explained that as the administration staff for Youth Camp, Josh and Lauren Martin provided continual leadership to a team of 30 adult volunteers by ensuring they had the information and instruction needed to operate within the camp schedule throughout the week, and their work ensured a smooth seamless production of camp.

“The entire family has provided continual guidance to our Youth Program throughout the year,” Duerksen wrote in the nomination packet. “Coming off of a deployment into this past year, they all were examples to many other volunteers and families in our program of what it means to stay connected.”

Duerksen said they provided direct feedback on many aspects of the youth program issues concerning Guard families, and they were integral in the planning of key events.

“There are few families that have invested their time and energy in the way I have seen this family be involved in Family Programs,” Duerksen wrote in the nomination packet. “Through deployments and family changes, they have come together, served together, and adapted together. Each one of them has left a mark on this program and continues to provide support unique to each of their skill-sets and interests. From knowledge of military systems, to administrative and logistical support, to hands-on facilitation and service, this family has made our Youth Program better each year by their involvement.”

Duerksen said the Martin children have grown up attending and now volunteering with the program and in many ways have become part of the National Guard family.

“They call to check in or stop by, even if not asked, and they jump to help or problem solve wherever they see a need,” he said. “They do all these things without any expectation of payback or award.”

According to their nomination packet, the Martins played key roles in the direct planning and pre-event organization for the Youth Camp, the largest event put on by the VNG Family Programs. The parents organized and oversaw National Guard Youth Camp registration and check out processing for over 80 campers while managing a team of over 10 adults and 15 teens themselves.

“The teen Martins assisted with service projects throughout the year involving organization and project work in the Youth Program offices to prepare for Month of the Military Child recognition efforts and other youth events,” he said. “They also served as members and officers on the National Guard State Teen Panel, speaking to issues facing National Guard Youth around the state during conference calls and meetings. Their efforts led to the successful implementation of events and programs throughout the year,” Duerksen said.

Holcomb volunteered with the Youth Program while he was still in uniform, and he continued his service as he retired.

“Carl Holcomb has been one of the most faithful volunteers over the years in our program,” Duerksen wrote in the nomination packet. “For almost the last decade of his service, he volunteered his time with the National Guard Youth Program, and specifically at Youth Camp. His presence provided a calm, experienced umbrella of support for the other volunteers at the camp. His work with the kids demonstrated before their eyes an unwavering loyalty and an enduring pride in the National Guard and the state he had served. He is a constant presence the kids could count on year after year.”

Duerksen said that as a volunteer in other areas of the program and at deployment events for families, Holcomb was a consistent model of leadership to our other adult volunteers.

“Without effort or vanity, he models the assuring, confidence toward each task assigned and attention to safety and situational awareness so valued in those who work around children,” he said. “His work has both made an impact and been an example to the Youth Program he faithfully gives his time to.”

“The Virginia National Guard Family Programs office has many valuable volunteers that dedicate their time year-round to better the lives of our service members and families,” he said. “All of them are recognized for their efforts each year at our State Volunteer Workshop. This year we are especially excited for these who also received this award.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Virginia National Guard Family Programs or the Youth Program contact: Vickie Sais, State Family Program Director at, or Joe Duerksen at 804-236-7866 or via email at

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