2023 Volunteer Family of the Year
The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Lt. Col. Robert "Jody" Shipley.
Shipley, his wife, Emily, and their three children—Grace, Gage and Hailey—also are the 2023 Volunteer Family of the Year for Fort Cavazos, Texas.
At Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood, Shipley commands the troop battalion at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
“This family makes a difference every single day in the lives of everyone they meet,” Nancy Patterson of AUSA’s Central Texas chapter wrote in a letter nominating the family. “As parents, they have taught their children the importance of selfless service, working together as a team, assisting those who might need a little pick-me-up.”
In the past year, the Shipley family has logged more than 1,000 hours supporting several events and organizations, including more than 560 hours supporting the troop battalion’s Soldier and Family Readiness Group in serving a unit with more than 600 soldiers and a hospital that employs more than 2,000 Army civilians and their families. They were instrumental in events celebrating Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they helped coordinate an end of summer bash.
The Shipleys also spent more than 360 hours volunteering at and supporting many events at Memorial Christian Academy. They also volunteered at Memorial Baptist Church, the Killeen Food Bank and Garden of Hope, a shelter for children entering the foster care system.
“They are the embodiment of giving from the heart, and their exceptional level of community involvement stands as an example for others to emulate,” Patterson wrote. “They have and continue to touch the lives of many. Their seemingly boundless energy and genuine desire and determination to make a difference is truly inspiring.”
2022 Volunteer Family of the Year
The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Tomasura.
Tomasura, his wife, Amanda, and their three children—Timothy Jr., who is 15, Zoey, who’s 13, and 10-year-old Mackenzie—also are the 2022 Family of the Year for Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
At Fort Jackson, Tomasura was a senior drill sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. The family is now stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
The Tomasura family “embodies the phrase ‘Staying Ready Together’ while selflessly sharing their time and talents to enhance organizations in the Fort Jackson Army community and in the surrounding Columbia community,” Silvia Butler, of AUSA’s Fort Jackson-Palmetto State chapter, wrote when nominating the family for the award.
From hosting events for Gold Star teens to organizing reunions for Vietnam veterans, the Tomasuras have dedicated countless hours to helping others.
During the Gold Star Adventure event, 23 teenagers who had lost a parent in combat were given a chance to see what their loved one experienced during basic training. The Tomasuras coordinated and conducted activities such as land navigation and marching.
Sgt. 1st Class Tomasura also led a reunion for 23 Vietnam veterans from the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. The veterans, who came from across the country to Fort Jackson, observed basic training and attended a ceremony dedicating a memorial to the unit.
The Tomasura family also is actively involved in the battalion’s Soldier and Family Readiness Group, with Amanda Tomasura volunteering to lead the group.
She organized fundraising events every 10 weeks, raising $10,000 each year, with the money being used on events such as a Christmas dinner for 300 families in the battalion and free admission to a South Carolina amusement park for 35 drill sergeants and their families.
“This type of commitment reflects the love and teamwork that exists within the Tomasura home and transfers to the Army community,” Butler wrote.
Amanda Tomasura also has dedicated more than 500 volunteer hours with Habitat for Humanity and more than 700 hours with the American Red Cross.
“The Tomasura family understand the skills and discipline needed to make serving others possible,” Butler said. “They always strive to give their best within their family and strive to give their best to others.”
2021 Volunteer Family of the Year
The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Justin Dixon of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Dixon and his wife, Tawni, who have a 10-month-old son named Cameron, spend hundreds of hours volunteering and giving back to the military community, said Ariel Aponte, president of AUSA’s Braxton Bragg chapter, in nominating the Dixons for the award.
“Both members currently volunteer for their local community, the Fort Bragg community and unit programs above and beyond what would be expected,” she said.
In the last two years, Justin Dixon, who’s serving as a first sergeant in his unit, has volunteered more than 350 hours of his time. He founded a Facebook outreach group for veterans to connect and go fishing together; works to provide fishing trips and equipment to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities; and plans fishing trips for wounded warriors from the Fort Bragg area.
Tawni Dixon has volunteered more than 600 hours, including working with the Armed Services YMCA to organize canned food drives and raise money for hygiene items for families in need, and initiating the Junior Paratrooper of the Year Dependent Award, which recognizes high school dependents of 82nd Airborne soldiers for their volunteer work.
She also served as a Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader, organizing events for families when their soldiers were deployed and raising money throughout the unit’s deployment, collecting more than $7,000 in donations for single soldiers and 151 care packages for the soldiers’ return home.
Tawni Dixon also volunteers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s integration course, answering questions and helping families new to the division and Fort Bragg, and has worked with a local Girl Scout troop to raise money for cookies for paratroopers.
The Dixons were the Military Family of the Year for North Carolina in 2021 and the Fort Bragg Family of the Year in 2020, Aponte said.
They have both “demonstrated outstanding leadership in planning and organizing major events that have resulted in tangible benefits to both their community and Army families stationed at Fort Bragg as well as across the nation,” Aponte said.