Volunteers: The Heart of NMHM

Gwen Nelmes, Education Coordinator | May 16, 2019 |
Share or Save this page
Volunteers attend the Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on April 29, 2019 at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland. (IMG_6658: Department of Defense photo by Amanda Quinn)

Why do people volunteer? Do they enjoy the sense of community? The impact? Helping others? Learning something new? Organizations look for volunteers to help with tasks they are not able to do themselves. Volunteers look to organizations to do something meaningful that also has an impact on their community. Volunteering has been at the heart of the Army community since its inception in June 1775. Throughout military history, volunteers have collected supplies, made bandages, and even cared for the wounded. Today, Army volunteers support the community through public outreach and support programs, including the Better Opportunities for Single Service members program.

Red Cross humanitarian aid workers

Red Cross humanitarian aid workers serve refreshments to service members en route to the front, World War I. (Reeve 41970)

NMHM started its volunteer program in 1989 to provide guided tours of the exhibits, support for public programs, and care of the collections. Now in its 30th year, the program has more than 30 volunteers that perform many of the same activities as the first group. Volunteers bring a wide variety of experiences and knowledge to the table that helps further the mission of the museum. Their backgrounds include family medicine, law, art history, public health, and even other specialties, such as physical therapy and cardiology.

In 2018, volunteers contributed more than 2,500 hours to museum services ranging from educational programming to research. Together, they make a dynamic team that supports the mission and vision of the museum and, by extension, the Defense Health Agency.

Group of volunteers at NMHM

NMHM volunteer program was started in 1989. Today, the program has more than 30 volunteers that support tour guiding, public programs, research, and collections care. A group of volunteers gather for a picture, circa 2000, at NMHM in Washington, D.C. (NCP 17278)

The majority of the museum's volunteer hours come from volunteer docents. These volunteers are the front-line support that interprets the museum's exhibits while educating the public of all ages through guided tours and programs. School groups, professional organizations, and college students experience the wonder of the human body, while also learning about the important efforts of the military to care for service members.

Andrea Rander and young visitor

Andrea Rander, an NMHM volunteer, shows a young visitor information about the museum at the 2014 U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. (140425-A-MP902-115: Department of Defense photo by Matthew Breitbart)

Working with the public isn't the only volunteer activity at NMHM. Collections volunteers work behind the scenes supporting several different departments of the museum. These volunteers work tirelessly to rehouse objects, develop 3D images of specimens, and use their subject matter expertise to research and document the history of military medicine, especially in the Otis Historical Archives. This work helps to preserve the collections for future generations and provides additional information for researchers that use the museum's collections.

On Monday, April 29, 2019, NMHM's volunteers were recognized for their work at the annual Fort Detrick Volunteer Recognition Ceremony in Frederick, Maryland. Volunteers and staff attended the ceremony hosted by the Army Volunteer Corps, Installation Commander Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb and Garrison Commander Col. Scott Halter. Volunteers received certificates of appreciation and President's Volunteer Service Awards. President's Volunteer Service Awards recognize individuals who provided a certain number of volunteer hours during the course of the year. Awards are determined by hour levels that include Bronze (100-249 hours), Silver (250-399 hours), and Gold (400 hours or more). This year, nine museum volunteers received the Bronze service award and one volunteer, Emmalynn Todd, received the Silver award. In addition to these service awards, six volunteers will be celebrating their five-year anniversary at NMHM.

Photo Gallery:
Showing photo 1 of 9

On behalf of NMHM, the staff would like to thank all of our volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the mission of the museum. Without your support and knowledge, we wouldn't be able to serve our larger community. You are truly the heart of NMHM! Thank you, volunteers!


Interested in volunteering at NMHM? Check out our volunteer page for more information.

Check out additional opportunities with Army Volunteer Corps.

Recent Posts
View All »
March 28, 2024
To 'set the skies ablaze with life and promise': WWII Flight Nurses
August 24, 2023
Col. James Earle Ash: A Lifetime of Accomplishments
July 20, 2023
John Paul Jones: Body Identification in 1905