The Raines squad — eight of them in all — celebrates plenty of birthdays in their large family. But one recent commemoration they planned together stands out more than others. They say they’ll never forget a special party for the Army.
Brittany Raines describes how her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Casey Raines, and six children delivered cupcakes to a local veterans’ home during the COVID pandemic to honor the Army’s birthday in the best way possible. Her daughters played patriotic songs on their violins that were broadcast throughout the building, and they all wrote inspiring chalk messages in the outdoor area. It was one of her kids’ most memorable community projects (and there have been many), Brittany says, and it only took about an hour of their time.
“People were lining up in their windows,” Casey added. “We brought joy to however many veterans were in that home that day. It doesn’t have to be a huge scale, but if you can brighten one person’s day, that’s something that we strive to do.”
It’s a concept he calls “the ripple effect,” and the Raines family’s history of giving back proves that while the efforts may start small, their charitable spirit catches on quickly. The family founded The Warm Up Project, their self-proclaimed “passion project,” in 2018 while stationed at Fort Drum in Upstate New York. An initiative that began as them collecting scarves and hats in the colder months and distributing them on light poles and benches in their area has now expanded to 15 states.
In addition to involvement with their church, Girl and Boy Scouts and the USO, Brittany currently serves as the executive consultant at AUSA Mid-Missouri Fort Leonard Wood Chapter and director of community engagement for the Inspire Up Foundation. Through her work with Giving Tuesday Military, she and her family have coordinated more than 50,000 acts of kindness.
And their long list of accolades proves others are noticing the Raines’ dedication to service. Brittany was recognized in 2017 as the AFI Fort Drum Military Spouse of the Year and in 2019 as the Volunteer of the Year for the 91st Military Police Battalion.
And perhaps their most significant acknowledgment — being named the 2020 AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year, presented annually by the Association of the United States Army to one family with superior volunteer efforts. Brittany says the award definitely opened doors and gave her a platform both within the military community and beyond.
“Part of that award criteria is what you’re doing in the community,” she explained. “So, it’s not just being an FRG leader with the unit. It’s not just, you know, working at the USO, where it’s very military specific. It’s what you are doing outside the gates, and that’s always my goal — to connect the military community to the community outside.”
Filling family buckets
Casey acknowledges that Brittany also does plenty inside … their home. Military life, he says, means that she acts as a single mom a lot of the time, balancing school schedules, sports and a slew of other activities on her own in addition to the family’s dedication to volunteer work. His work as a military police officer in the 14th Military Police Brigade means being away six days a week from at least 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When she married Casey 10 years ago, Brittany admits to having “zero exposure to the military.”
“I tried to warn her,” joked Casey.
With their latest move to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri about a year ago, the family has PCSed five times.
“The hardest part for us is rebuilding every time we have to PCS,” said Brittany. “Our family really enjoys the adventure of PCSing, but it’s taken some time to learn how to rebuild your communities every time you PCS, and now we are pros at it, I think.”
Their pro tip? Getting involved with things everyone loves as soon as possible. Brittany says they arrived in Missouri on a Saturday and her oldest son, Mason, had his first wrestling practice by Monday night.
She relies on her career and community service to make connections that fill her bucket.
“I think, for me, it’s easy to make friends,” she said. “I utilize my career and my work to get to know people and to learn about our new location. Especially with community service and community outreach, I have to get to know the community and where the gaps are to do my work. I get to really build connections with people and relationships that are bridges forever.”
Casey says he feels it’s super critical to do what he can to support his wife’s career.
“They [my family] have followed me everywhere I’ve gone and I don’t necessarily have control over that, so I am happy that this job gives me the opportunity to allow her to do the stuff that she enjoys,” he said. “And then when we volunteer as a family, we are together doing things that fill all of our buckets. It brings happiness and joy to not just us but other people.”
Casey plans to keep working with the Army as long as he can continue interacting with his fellow soldiers. By retirement time, four of the Raines kids will be out of the house, which will feel like a retirement itself, he jokes.
“If I make the next rank then there is probably a good chance that I will stay doing this as long as I can stay engaged with soldiers,” he said. “The second I get a desk job is going to be when I no longer like what I do.”
He says he loves being on the frontlines, training other military police officers and mentoring. And that’s just fine with Brittany.
“Seeing him lead soldiers is one of my favorite things,” she said. “Those guys look up to him. The impact as a leader that he has made on soldiers is my favorite part of being a military spouse by far.”
Helping others is something that has always connected this couple, and they agree that it’s critical to pass on the importance of goodwill to their kids.
“We believe in modeling that kindness for them because it really can make a difference in somebody’s world,” Brittany said. “And I think it does help them see the silver lining in situations.”
The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award recognizes an exceptional Army family dedicated to volunteer service that improves the local community. Recipients may be active duty, Army civilian or from the Army Reserve. For more information and to apply, visit www.AUSA.org/military-families/volunteer-family-award.