The Veterans’ Voices Award is an honor given by the Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) that recognizes former service members giving back to their communities in a way “that is going above and beyond the call of duty,” MHC Communications Director Christi Shortridge tells William Loeffler of the Southwest Washington County Bulletin.
Recently, 28-year-old Amber Manke of Milaca, Minn. was honored with this distinction for her incredible record of service.
“I’m incredibly humbled and wondering why I was selected over all the other candidates that were nominated,” Manke says. But those familiar with all of the good work that Manke does in her community aren’t surprised.
In addition to her school and military duties, Manke volunteered over 100 hours last year at Second Harvest, Habitat for Humanity, Feed My Starving Children, Make A Wish Foundation and the Mission Continues (a nonprofit that supports veterans as they transition to civilian life). Additionally, she coaches a team for Girls on the Run, an organization that helps girls — especially low-income ones — learn about running and healthy behavior.
She also took time on Veterans Day last year to speak to elementary school students about what the holiday means. “I like being a soldier,” she told a group of third graders, according to Lesley Toth of the Mille Lacs County Times. “I love going out and making sure you guys are safe back here.”
Manke helps others in part because she knows what it’s like to be in need of assistance. She grew up in poverty with an out-of-work mother, living on a farm with 13 brothers and sisters, often visiting food banks when they were hungry. Manke began working when she was 15 years old and worked two jobs while attending college.
In 2012, Amber Manke was selected from among thousands of applicants to become a Tillman Military Scholar. The scholarships, sponsored by the Pat Tillman Foundation, help military members pay school expenses that aren’t covered by the G.I. Bill. Manke is using her funding to pursue a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and policy development at the University of Minnesota.
And that’s not all she’s been up to. Somehow, she found the time to complete the 2013 New York City Marathon, raising money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.
“Everyone says that they don’t have enough time,” she says. “I truly believe that you make time for the things that are important to you.”
It’s a safe bet that we can expect to hear about more accomplishments from this dynamic veteran in years to come.
MORE: When Vandals Trashed A Park, A Group of Veterans Came to the Rescue