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Army awards recognize dedicated volunteers


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POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009

Once Staff Sgt. John Irace got involved in helping in Moanalua, he didn't stop. “;I love this place,”; Irace said. “;My passion is to help this community. I know of so many soldiers who also want to do the same but don't know how to get involved.”;

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For his volunteer efforts, involving coordinating the work of others and contributing more than 100 hours of his own time, Irace recently was named Hawaii Army volunteer ambassador of the year by the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

In October, Irace, a 12-year Army veteran, showed up at Moanalua Elementary School near Tripler Army Medical Center, where he is a radiation-safety officer.

“;I expected to spend most of the day at Tripler's adopted school to help paint a classroom,”; Irace said, “;but because 50 of us showed up, we finished the job in 20 minutes.”;

That encounter evolved into other community- service projects, including coordinating a reading program in which more than 100 soldiers help elementary students learn to read.

Also honored was Elizabeth Woodruff, who was picked as Hawaii Army spouse and installation volunteer of the year.

In nominating Woodruff, Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander of the 2nd Stryker Combat Brigade Team, described her as “;a shining example of volunteerism”; who puts “;the needs and wants of others before herself.”;

Woodruff's husband, Maj. Todd Woodruff, is the executive officer of McCaffrey's 1st Battalion and has served in Iraq for the past two years with only a short break between deployments. Woodruff volunteered to coordinate the 1st Battalion's family-support programs during the 15 months it was deployed.

That meant keeping the more than 400 wives in the unit and an untold numbers of parents of soldiers informed while organizing functions for the spouses to help boost morale.

At the same time, Woodruff worked at a substitute teacher at Wheeler Middle School and at Hale Kula Elementary School, where two of her three children are students. She is also a leader in her daughter's Girl Scout troop and teaches karate at the Okinawan Kenpo Karate dojo where she is working toward a brown-belt rank.