Sue Mears credits the miracle in her life to a cold, dark winter night three years ago Thanksgiving.

As this holiday, known for individuals acknowledging what they are most grateful for, approaches, it provides her with what she is most thankful for - her second chance at life.

“I was at DFW (airport) meeting and greeting troops heading off to war when it hit me,” said Mears, a Mesquite resident. “I was going to do something to help.”

Uncertain of how to pursue volunteer work with the troops, Mears found help in an old friend, Brent Bailey. It was Bailey who introduced her to the volunteer work of the Army Air Force Exchange Services.

AAFES has the dual mission of providing authorized patrons with articles of merchandise and services and generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

Mears is now in her third year as an AAFES volunteer and she said she couldn’t be happier volunteering her time to help the troops. She credits the efforts of helping the troops for giving her life back.

A few years prior to that day, Mears was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Rather than discuss what was, she chooses to focus more on what she believes is the cause for her newfound health.

“I believe my efforts to help the troops is a miracle,” Mears said. “After a few years of being diagnosed with a terminal illness I devoted my life to helping the troops and, in return, I’ve just been informed that I have overcome my illness.”

One of Mears’ responsibilities is providing the business organization and the public with information of what she deems the most important gift one can give the troops - a chance to call home.

“Help Our Troops Call Home” allows anyone, even non-authorized exchange shoppers, to send Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards to individual service members (designated by the sender) or to “any service member” through a variety of charitable partners. It started simply enough in April 2004 as a program in which the American public could provide an avenue for soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors in deployed areas to stay connected to loved ones back home. Just three and a half years later, the contributions to “Help Our Troops Call Home” have totaled $5,004,556, according to an AFFES news release.

Judd Anstey, AAFES public relation manager, said the role of a volunteer - such as Mears - is to help promote the process of purchasing these cards. The only way people can buy these cards is at AAFES’ Web site, www.aafes.com.

Anstey described the impact a volunteer, such as Mears, can have for AAFES and the troops.

“Sue is a tireless advocate for military families,” Anstey said. “Her regular interaction with soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors seems to energize her to inform seemingly everyone she comes in contact with of the value and morale boost a familiar voice or taste of home can provide.”

Mears’ work enabled her to be the recipient of a rare, distinguished honor. On May 24, she was presented with the Triple Excellence Award for her rigorous pursuit to helping the troops.

“It means the world to me,” Mears said. “This is special because I know it comes from all of the troops.”

Even with her accolades, Mears has concerns the public will forget about the nation’s troops after the holidays.

“I feel it’s important to help the troops not only during the holidays but every day possible,” she said. “For a lot of people it’s an afterthought (the troops). I just try making sure we don’t forget about them.”

Mears hopes others follow in her footsteps as a volunteer. She promises to do her part because she said she knows the importance of her responsibility and the true reason for her continuous work.

“I believe in what I am doing,” she said. “For me, this is a labor of love.”

E-mail Anthony at anthony.davila@wninews.com