GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Staff Sgt. Daniel Paniagua, a volunteer with USO Bavaria and a Senior Small Group Leader at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, was recognized as the USO Europe Volunteer of the Year 2021 on Nov. 15. This announcement was made while surrounded by family, friends and peers, during a quarterly appreciation celebration at the Tower View Conference Center.
The prestigious recognition of USO Europe Volunteer of the Year is voted on by USO Europe Area Directors. They make their annual selection based on the four individuals who were past USO Europe Volunteers of the Quarter. Earlier this year, Paniagua was recognized at the regional level for the second quarter.
Near the end of the appreciation celebration, USO Europe & EMEA Regional Vice President Grant McCormick and Regional Operations Manager Misty Bellotte took the stage together to surprise the attendees with one last major announcement of the evening.
“In the USO Europe, Middle East and Africa, we have a lot of volunteers, and we recognize our volunteers for all the things they do,” said McCormick. “We have a program that every year we select a Volunteer of the Year for the region. It takes a lot to be the USO Europe Volunteer of the Year, as you have to give up yourself and be a part of it … Well, it just so happens that the USO Europe Volunteer of the Year is right here in this room today – Dan.”
According to USO Bavaria Area Director Carly Harris, only three members of the USO Bavaria team knew this was the reason why McCormick and Bellotte traveled from headquarters to join the celebration in person. The announcement was an exhilarating shock for all other team members of USO Bavaria, USO Grafenwoehr and USO Camp Aachen.
“I really appreciate it – just like the quarterly acknowledgement – I’m surprised,” said Paniagua. “I asked my wife, ‘Wow, it’s a big deal that you’re [McCormick and Bellotte] here, so what’s going on?’ But I appreciate the surprise, and I love volunteering.”
During his acceptance speech, Paniagua expressed additional thanks and gratitude to his team members and acknowledged numerous key players individually.
“Dan sees what needs to be accomplished, develops a plan and executes the plan. Ultimately, he gets the job done,” said Harris. “Dan does what he does, because he genuinely cares about the USO mission – the Soldiers and families that we support – and he expects nothing in return. Dan epitomizes both the Army and USO Core Values. The USO Bavaria Team is fortunate that Dan has chosen to share his time and talent with us!”
As an active-duty Soldier, Paniagua committed over 300 volunteer hours, including holiday shifts, to USO Bavaria since Valentine’s Day 2019. Furthermore, he is a devoted husband, father and member of the Sergeant Morales Club. From assisting the organization with major holiday events, solving unique problems involving center renovations, mobilizing additional 7ATC NCOA affiliates to want to volunteer their time and more, Paniagua’s volunteerism positively impacted thousands of people at USO Bavaria and across U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria.
Paniagua is now a contender for becoming the USO Volunteer of the Year.
Amidst the fourth quarter appreciation celebration, highlights included:
Recognizing volunteers for reaching their 150-hour milestones:
Recognizing volunteers for reaching their 250-hour milestones:
Congratulating volunteers for being selected Volunteers of the Quarter for the Area Offices:
View additional photos on Flickr, here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmX8QwsB