2017-11-03 / Front Page

Serving comes naturally for one spouse

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

Lauren Updike Lauren Updike Lauren Updike sees herself as an ordinary person with a heart for doing what she envisions anyone would do to help someone in need. Despite having a track record of serving others in their most desperate times of need, she hardly considers herself a hero. But that is exactly how her friend, Heather Heddleson, views her efforts during Military Family Appreciation Month.

Heddleson first met Updike in early 2015 through their husbands’ family readiness group. Heddleson was new to Navy Information Operations Command-Georgia, and Updike had just passed on her role as FRG leader, which she had since 2010. A short time later, a mutual friend invited Heddleson to a birthday gathering for Updike while Updike’s husband was deployed, and the two hit it off.

“ Lauren is just one of those people that you can’t help but get along with,” Heddleson said.

Over t ime their friendship grew. Anytime Heddleson needed someone to talk to, Updike listened and offered advice. When Heddleson underwent an emergency cesarean section, Updike cared for her “zoo” (three dogs, cat, two rabbits, and two turtles) so Heddleson’s husband could stay at the hospital with her.

“Without Lauren, I would have spent much of that week alone,” Heddleson said.

To show her gratitude, Heddleson invited Updike to be the first person to hold the newborn.

“That was very, very sweet,” Updike said. “My kids are older and something that I’ve always had in the back of my mind is that in their younger lives, we were near family so I could call my mom … we didn’t ever have the kind of issue a lot of my friends with little ones have now.

When Heddleson’s husband left Georgia to start a civilian job in New York, leaving Heddleson behind to take care of an infant and animals while they searched for a new home, Updike came to her rescue on multiple occasions. One day in particular stands out. Heddleson said normally her son is content as long as he is held or close to people.

“ Naturally on the one day I had big projects planned for the house, that was the day he was cranky … in rare form,” Heddleson said.

So she reached out to Updike, who offered to watch him so Heddleson could catch up around the house.

“ When she dropped him off, he didn’t handle it well because he wanted his mom, so I put him in the stroller and we just ran for nine miles so he could sleep, and it worked because he did get a nap in,” Updike said.

Heddleson is not the only one who benefits from Updike’s kindness. Heddleson said her passion for serving others extends far beyond friendships. She is involved in programs out in the community as well including Team Red, White, Blue, Christmas House, Girl Scouts, Army Family Team Building, and more.

“If you ask any of the NIOC Georgia families about Lauren, they will all have something great to say about her,” Heddleson said.

“It will range from enlisting everyone she knows to get to the FRG fundraiser to bag groceries, coming home to find their door decorated for their birthday by Lauren, hosting a military family that recently had to evacuate from Jacksonville during Hurricane Irma, and more.”

It is a statement Shawn Williams can attest to. Williams, a retired Department of Defense employee, got to know Updike during Williams’ tenure as Mobilization and Deployment Specialist.

Williams said that even while attending college, raising two children and dealing with the deployment of her spouse, Updike always made time for others.

“She assisted military families prepare for and survive numerous deployments, she was keenly aware of differing family dynamics, she planned activities that were appealing for families, couples, and sole parents … I wish there were more of her,” Williams said.

Updike credits timing and involvement in the FRG with a passion for serving and informing others. She and her husband had been married about eight years before he joined the Navy. Their only duty station prior to Fort Gordon was in Monterey, California, where her husband completed his training. New to the military culture, Updike said she soaked up everything she could to become well-versed.

During that time, she discovered the Navy’s FRG was inactive and that the new commander wanted to start it back up. Eager to get involved, Updike interviewed for the position and got it.

“I really enjoyed it,” Updike said. “It’s where I met a lot of people and in many ways set me up.”

More importantly, it became an avenue for her to make a positive impact on the community; particularly the Navy.

“A lot of Navy spouses were missing out on post-wide events because they didn’t know about them or assumed they were only open to the Army,” Updike said.

When a Navy spouse suggested Updike get involved with programs, she took her suggestion.

“I really jumped into some things but it was more Army-based, and I really wanted to be able to implement what I had learned – networking and all of that – for our Navy spouses,” Updike said.

As much as she gives, Updike said she is often on the receiving end.

“I love meeting new people and everybody always has something to offer and bits of advice, things to learn from … life is more fun when you get out there and enjoy it,” Updike said. “I’m just happy to be able to step in and help out when help is needed.”

“She is the goodness we need more of in the world,” Heddleson said.

Updike is married to Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Updike of NIOC-Georgia. The two reside in Grovetown with their 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son.

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