Fort Wainwright soldier earns American Legion Spirit of Service award

posted Sep 17, 2016, 10:55 AM by Donald Bons   [ updated Sep 17, 2016, 11:06 AM ]

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Cpl. Bryce Wolford joined the Army to serve his country, but it was his service to his community that earned him national recognition early in his military career. 

Wolford recently received the Spirit of Service Award from the American Legion. The 25-year-old intelligence analyst at Fort Wainwright accepted the award with members of the three other armed services on Sept. 1 at the group's annual convention in Cincinnati. 

Wolford is originally from Redmond in central Oregon, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. He enlisted in the Army two years ago after earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and justice. He was assigned to Fort Wainwright as his first duty post. 

He approaches community service similar to how he approaches national service in the military. 

"I've had a lot of really good opportunities in my life," he said recently after returning from Cincinnati. "I wouldn't be who I am or where I am if hadn't had some really great privileges just from being an American." 

The Army encourages service members to volunteer in their community, but few put in as many hours as Wolford. He's helped raise money for the Red Cross, coached soccer for 7- to 8-year-olds and he drives a van for the Soldiers Against Drunk Driving program. He and his wife each mentor children through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. 

Labor Day weekend was especially busy for Wolford's volunteer commitments. Because of the long weekend, there was more SADD work to be done and he also spent a few hours with his "little" from Big Brothers Big Sisters. In all, he volunteered about 20 hours during the long weekend. 

Spirit of Service Award
In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 photo, Cpl. Bryce Wolford, an intelligence analyst with Fort Wainwright's 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, speaks during an interview in Fairbanks, Alaska. Wolford recently received the American Legion 2016 Spirit of Service Award.
Photo Credit: Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP

Wolford described the experience of receiving the Spirit of Service award as "humbling." The American Legion convention typically attracts about 9,000 people and was a campaign stop for both major U.S. presidential candidates this year. 

A highlight of the convention for Wolford was meeting Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient. Wolford enjoyed meeting veterans at the convention, but found it a bit disorientating to be congratulated on the award by World War II and Vietnam War veterans. 

"Here I am, I've been in the Army just over two years, I haven't done anything super exciting, I haven't deployed. For the most part, I sit at a computer. I do a lot of work, but a lot of times, it feels like your work doesn't have a big impact," he said. "All these guys are like, 'Oh my God, thank you for your service,' and I'm like, 'What are you doing thanking me? Thank you.'" 

Wolford is proud to be in the Army, but his ambitions are to one day work in law enforcement, ideally the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He describes his interest in the FBI as a fascination with a childhood game that he kept into adulthood. 

"For me, it kind of never left me. I still like the idea of cops and robbers," he said. "I want to grow up to be the good guy."