With more than 600 volunteer hours at the National Museum of the Pacific War, Staff Sgt. Kyle Perz received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, an award presented to qualified Soldiers with more than three years and/or 500 volunteer hours, May 4, at the Shoemaker Center.
“We do our best to bring the history back to life, serving as a connection between what you read in a textbook and actually being there in the Pacific,” he said about volunteering at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. “It is often in sharing the stories of our past heroes with our youth that we create the heroes of the future.”
The Fort Hood Soldier, who serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge of immunizations at the Deployment Readiness Center, has devoted his off-duty time several times per month for three years with the National Museum of the Pacific War, where he volunteers as a reenactor and breathes life into history for new generations.
“Through events at the museum, school programs, air shows and other festivals, we bring our generation the stories of the heroism, ingenuity, duty, honor and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation in World War II,” he said.
An avid history buff, Perz said he has a great respect for military veterans and holds a special place in his heart for WWII history, as the grandson of two WWII veterans.
“Growing up, I had the privilege to ask questions and listen to their stories,” Perz said. “It was this experience that led me, not only to volunteer at the Museum of the Pacific War, but military service in general.”
The combat medic has served 14 years as a Reserve and active duty Soldier. Off duty, he serves a flamethrower operator for Company K at the museum, where he maintains and demonstrates the M2-2 flamethrower, a weapon that can shoot flames 20-40 meters. The weapon was used by the Army and Marine Corps heavily during WWII.
Perz said one of his greatest memories from volunteering was being able to operate the flamethrower alongside Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams, during an Iwo Jima veteran reunion at the museum. Williams, who served on a Marine combat engineer assault team during the Battle of Iwo Jima, is the last known Medal of Honor survivor from the Pacific theater of WWII.
The command-approved Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is designed to recognize the sustained, director and consequential volunteer service to the civilian community. After Perz submitted himself for the award, he asked Jeff Copsetta, the museum’s living history department director, to pin the award. Unknown to Perz at the time, his command surprised him by also promoting him to staff sergeant at the same time.
Copsetta, a former Cavalry scout who was once stationed at Fort Hood, said among his approximate 140 volunteers, Perz stands out as one of the best.
“My entire tenure as the living history coordinator, he’s been one of the rock-solid volunteers. He’s really been the epitome of what we expect from volunteers,” Copsetta said. “He just kept thanking me for coming, but it meant more to me than it did him. To be able to be part of a promotion and award ceremony was really something special.”
While the award itself is an honor, Perz said being able to represent the Greatest Generation and shake hands with WWII veterans who visit the museum is the greatest honor.
“The Greatest Generation were ordinary Americans who rose to meet the extraordinary demands of their time,” Perz concluded. “That same greatness lies in the heart of all Americans today and it’s on each of us to rise to the occasion when our generation calls us.”