Service—sometimes it refers to a military commitment. Other times it describes the action of helping others. For at least one Navy Chief, it means both.
Chief Information Systems Technician Heather Lane had a smile that remained constant for hours as she chopped peppers and cucumbers, filling the large clear containers with vegetables for the next meal at Nashville Rescue Mission.
She wasn’t the only one smiling either. Nine other sailors from Navy Recruiting District Nashville joined her as they helped prepare a meal for the homeless. One group was filling food trays with sandwiches while another was emptying cans of corn. And the whole group was there to volunteer and serve in large part because of Heather.
“I came from a past where the only reason we had Christmas was because people would show up at our door with gifts,” said Heather. “Now I’m in a place where I can give back, and it feels good to help others.”
For Heather, volunteering has become a passion over the course of nearly 20 years in naval service. The more she served, the more her motivations matured, driving the intensity of her efforts.
“Being in the service sometimes means moving to new cities,” said Heather. “With each move, I would enroll my kids in school, then I would go find a place to volunteer. It was what made me feel at home in my new home.”
Heather says she started giving back because of having received so much during her childhood. Then it became about serving for her career. And now it’s about giving glory to God through serving others. “Serving is contagious—seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing I helped put it there—it’s an awesome feeling,” she said.
When she says contagious, she practices what she preaches. Once Heather understood the impact her time and effort could produce, she sought out ways to multiply her enthusiasm by recruiting others to join her. It has led
her on many group projects at previous naval commands and most recently to Nashville Rescue Mission.
“I enjoy serving at the Mission,” said Heather. “It’s rewarding to know we are helping those in need, but it is also a blessing to connect with other people who volunteer and work there. The fellowship of a community working together to help the homeless is something special.”
Each time Heather signed up with the expectation of recruiting others, she found the line of volunteers form quickly behind her. As she saw the group of people standing beside her, she was overwhelmed and inspired.
“There are times I will tear up because I know I am making a difference. Sometimes people believe that one person can’t make a difference, but I know one person can. If everybody believed that, this world would be a much better place,” she said.
In less than a year, Heather will retire from the Navy. When she leaves she will have completed in excess of 6,000 volunteer hours, received four Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, and be eligible for the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteer service. Heather counts the experience of service far more worthy than the medal itself, though she does appreciate the recognition as a reminder of what she was able to do in addition to an honorable military career.
“When I received awards for my job, it was mostly because of something I had to do. The Volunteer Service Medal isn’t something I went on a path to get. It was something people started recommending me for. At first I didn’t necessarily want it because I didn’t need to be recognized for something I already love to do. But then I realized how much it meant that my leadership recognized me for something beyond the regular requirements of my job,” she said. “And it gives me the opportunity to inspire others to volunteer to serve.”
As Heather looks to her service career ending with the Navy—in her community, that career of serving seems only to be the beginning. “We’ve decided to make Nashville our home,” said Heather. “I can’t wait to spend more time serving others, especially at Nashville Rescue Mission, where I feel very much at home.”
If you’d like to join Heather and others in the community who enjoy serving those in need, visit this link.