Lewes’ Bunting recognized for work with Dover AFB USO

DOVER — There was always a deep-rooted admiration and just something about the U.S. military that made Donna Bunting want to repay her respects to its members in any way she could.

Now, just three years after signing up to become a member of the United Service Organizations (USO) at the Dover Air Force Base Passenger Terminal, Mrs. Bunting is being honored for her work in helping to support the military.

Mrs. Bunting, of Lewes, was recently honored with the Gold Level President’s Volunteer Service Award for her service with the USO. She has a total of 733 lifetime volunteer hours served with the organization.

“I was deeply honored to receive the award and a little surprised as there are so many exceptional volunteers,” Mrs. Bunting

Donna Bunting, of Lewes, was recently honored with the Gold Level President’s Volunteer Service Award for her service with the USO at Dover Air Force Base. (Submitted photo)

said. “There wasn’t a single event for receiving it. I serve as a USO center representative, participate in fundraisers and assist service members during dignified transfers.

“Also, Bos’n, the family Golden Retriever, serves as an emotional support animal in our center, all of which, involves a team effort.”

Mrs. Bunting received a personalized certificate, an official pin, medallion or coin and a congratulatory letter from President Donald Trump as part of her Volunteer Service Award.

“(Mrs. Bunting is) an exceptional volunteer and she likes to give back to the USO community here at Dover Air Force Base,” said Desirae Krotzer, who serves as center operations supervisor for USO Delaware at DAFB. “Donna volunteers to the USO every Thursday. She just has this passion for the service members and incredible enthusiasm for our work.

“Plus, she often brings her Golden Retriever, Bos’n, in to the terminal. He’s wonderful. Bos’n likes to come in and he changes everybody’s mood. Everybody loves him.”

Mrs. Bunting enjoys it when she gets the chance to bring Bos’n in to offer his services as an “emotional support animal.”

“Two years into my service as a volunteer, I registered Bos’n, my family’s Golden Retriever, as an emotional support animal to serve in our center,” she said.

“Essentially, he’s there to comfort and provide companionship to anyone who visits us.

“I’m biased but Goldens are an exceptionally gentle breed and (make) great companions. He interacts well with the volunteers, military and civilians alike. It’s remarkable to watch how people are drawn to him and the smiles that follow. He’s been so well received that last year the USO made him an honorary volunteer. And, he’s a tough act to follow.”

It’s no surprise that Mrs. Bunting was attracted to doing volunteer work for the USO, considering she spent most of her career working within the law enforcement community in Maryland and Delaware.

“I’ve always respected and admired our military and recognized how important they are to our safety and freedoms and wanted to share how much their civilian counterparts care,” she said. “After all, they are American citizens. They’re one of us.”

Mrs. Bunting’s Golden Retriever, Bos’n, helps to provide comfort and companionship to anyone who visits the Dover Air Force Base USO.

Mrs. Bunting is a proud native of Salisbury, Maryland. She said that while her parents have passed and her siblings have moved away that she still loves life on the Delmarva Peninsula.

“The Eastern Shore is rich in history and I loved the ocean even as a child,” said Mrs. Bunting, who resides in Lewes with her husband Steve. “Fishing and diving were favorite pastimes.”

There was one thing that Mrs. Bunting said stood out particularly to her after deciding to volunteer for USO Delaware.

“When I joined the USO three years ago, I was taken by the level of camaraderie that existed within the USO family,” she said. “We are individuals but we all share common ground in caring for those who serve us.

“I care for the volunteers as much as the service members, including the retirees and veterans who visit us. Some have even taken on the role of being our caretakers. They have become my extended family.”

Mrs. Bunting said the USO center at DAFB is designed to make deployment and even regular flights easier for servicemen and women.

The USO Delaware lounge at the DAFB Passenger Terminal offers an array of food and beverages, Wi-Fi, a pool table, leather chairs, a theater and offers video games for individuals to unwind and relax with.

It also has a place where servicemen and women can record themselves on camera reading children’s books to send to their loved ones before deployment.

Still, it’s not just fun and games for those who arrive at the USO Delaware’s Center at the Passenger Terminal.

There are also the dignified transfers in which fallen servicemembers are returned home to Dover Air Force Base from foreign lands and are taken from arriving aircraft to a transfer vehicle that proceeds to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs on base.

“Those volunteers who serve on dignified transfers can be called upon 24/7,” Mrs. Bunting said. “We are there to assist those who receive and care for our fallen when they return home.

“The USO provides reception areas for select service members and visitors but the transfers are a team effort that also includes the Fisher House (care for families), Mortuary Affairs, clergy and many others. Our center offers additional services. Everyone gives their all during these difficult times.”

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