While she no longer wears the uniform, Amber Donnelly often feels as if she never took it off, since she continues to provide support to the men and women who currently serve or have served.
Amber Donnelly – a third generation U.S. Air Force veteran and executive assistant at BAE Systems’ Air Force Strategic Programs in Utah – is always there to lend a hand to those who currently wear or have worn the uniform. She is actively involved in volunteering efforts with Team Hill Operation Warmheart, a nonprofit organization that distributes charitable donations to service members and their families all year long, and disperses a majority of its funding during the holiday season. Team Hill Operation Warmheart helps military and DoD civilian families in need at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where Amber works. They provide funding for food or bills, once they’ve exhausted all other options.
In addition to her volunteer work, Amber serves as the Vice President of Communications for BAE Systems’ Veterans Support Network (VSN), one of the companies Employees Resource Groups, which was developed to support veterans and non-veterans alike through coordinated efforts.
Do you have a personal connection to the military?
I am third generation Air Force, and the first officer in my family line, so I guess you can say I was born into the military. Every Airmen I worked with, or worked for me, knew me as someone they could come to when they needed help. While I’ve been out of Active Duty for almost three years, I still receive phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages from individuals I previously served with and even those who received my name from other members of the military, asking for career advice or general guidance on how to deal with challenging situations. Even though I no longer wear the uniform, I often feel as though I never took it off.
How did you get involved with the charitable organization and how do you support them?
In 2016 I participated in my first National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) with BAE Systems, where I volunteered to serve as the Remember. Honor. Support. champion for our site. This involved getting employees involved in various NMAM activities, including the Burger Burn, which benefits Operation Warmheart. I also served as the on-site coordinator for our “Honoring our Heroes – A Night at the Ballpark” military appreciation event with the Salt Lake Bees baseball team. It was during this year, that I was first introduced to Operation Warmheart, and as I got to know more about the organization’s mission and objectives, which is to support service member and their families, I knew it was something that aligned with my personal beliefs.
As for the VSN, I was encouraged to apply due to my unique creative writing/marketing abilities; and as a disabled veteran under 30-years old, I saw this as an opportunity to be a voice for a very small, and often overlooked demographic of the veteran population, while still supporting all of my fellow brothers and sisters.
What’s your most memorable experience volunteering for the charitable organization?
The Burger Burn is my most memorable volunteering experience. The event is an annual BAE Systems employee fundraising event at Hill Air Force Base and led by one of our stellar employees, Heather Wille. It brings together many of our employees where we serve the local Airmen on base. All proceeds go to Operation Warmheart! I love it. Last year’s event raised around $9,000, which BAE Systems matched as part of their Matching Gifts program. We’re expecting to triple the turnout this year!
For the VSN, I’d have to say the “The Great Transition Panel” which brought together a multi-generational group of Veteran, Guard, and Reservists to discuss their transition to BAE Systems, is going to be the highlight of my VSN volunteering this year. One of my prior focuses on Active Duty was life cycle management of Airmen, and knowing one of the most terrifying things for a service member is usually when they finally depart the service. For me, this panel served as a platform for prior and current service members to have a voice on the unique support requirements we have.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to volunteer and give back to the military community?
Do it! As a country, we are fortunate to have evolved to the point where America no longer goes to war, its military does. Regardless of your individual stance on current affairs, our military members and their families have earned our undying respect and support. They are constantly away from their families so that we can be with ours in peace and without fear. And if you have a spouse, significant other, and/or kids, bring them along to an event. You don’t need a direct affiliation to the military to support our service members; and support is completely non-discriminate.
What would you like to say to those who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military?
Thank you to the past, to the present, and those who will protect us in the future.