When Michelle McIntyre-Brewer created Soldier's List eight years ago, she had no way of knowing she would one day be celebrating her work with the president of the United States.
Soldier's List was created in 2003 in response to the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to send care packages through local students to soldiers overseas. Once word got out, participation exploded.
"We were getting to the point where we couldn't handle the amount of people interested in helping," McIntyre-Brewer said in a phone interview on Monday.
McIntyre-Brewer's background as part of a military family inspired her to focus on high-risk soldiers and their families around the world by providing medical relief.
As the daughter of a 33-year Air Force veteran, the Jefferson resident grew up all over the world.
"I lived in a lot of places where people didn't really have access. I grew up witnessing the need for assistance," she said.
That experience, paired with marrying a military man, losing her son to illness, raising a daughter who is missing half of her heart and adopting a son who is sick, culminated in her current work, she said.
"People call me Forrest Gump," McIntyre-Brewer said on Monday. "I'm told that if something will happen, it will happen to me. It just is what it is."
And this year, she can add one more item to her list: earning the nation's second-highest civilian honor. Last November, McIntyre-Brewer's best friend nominated the busy mom for the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal for her work with Soldier's List.
The award was established more than 40 years ago to recognize exemplary citizens' service. This year's recipients are from New York, Alaska, California, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, South Carolina and Florida.
One of 6,000 nominees, McIntyre-Brewer was selected as one of 13 recipients from throughout the country.
"It was a little bit of a shock when the White House called," she said.
McIntyre-Brewer had just lost one of the sick children she works with through her organization.
"Without taking significance from the award, it doesn't mean a whole lot when you lose one of the kids you're fighting to save," she said.
McIntyre-Brewer said she wasn't nervous about her afternoon with the president. Instead, she is concerned about keeping personal emergencies at bay.
"I have plans A, B, C, D, E, F and G to make sure we don't have anything come up," McIntyre-Brewer said of the people she cares for through Soldier's List.
Though she doesn't get paid for her work, McIntyre-Brewer said she would never stop doing it.
She carries a caseload of about 40 per week, as well as home-schooling her three children, Cavan, 10; Lorelei, 6; and JoJo, 4.
"I am a parent full time, but work that I do is constantly a part of everything that we do in this house," McIntyre-Brewer said.
McIntyre-Brewer could be arranging care for a child with congenital heart disease or ensuring care of a soldier who suffered a severe facial injury during service.
"I don't look at (the medal) as me getting an award," she said, "but as the work I do getting recognition."
The White House ceremony is set for 1:15 p.m. Thursday, when McIntyre-Brewer and 12 other recipients will be honored by President Barack Obama.
Copyright 2011 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.
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