2023 has been a remarkable year for amateur radio. There were many noteworthy opportunities for hams to use their license privileges for the greater good. An annular solar eclipse saw radio amateurs engaging in projects of scientific research about our ionosphere, devastating firestorms gutted entire cities and saw Amateur Radio Emergency Service member-volunteers rise to activate, hurricanes threatened life and property, bicycle races spread across the desert necessitating robust communications provided by hams, and high school students led and executed contacts with the International Space Station. Many amateur radio operators stood to serve in ways that made headlines, and all of them were volunteers.
Still, tens of thousands of others did work that never made the pages of QST, didn’t become the lead story on the local news, and didn’t become fodder for online forums. Perhaps it was the ARRL VE who administered tests, welcoming the next generation of hams into the hobby, or the National Traffic System net manager who handled traffic from hams checking in. It could’ve even been the mentor who took the time to show a learner how to solder. These are the unsung heroes of the Amateur Radio Service — these are the volunteers.
ARRL has nearly 60,000 volunteers within its membership, without whom it could not function. They are the lifeblood of this hobby. ARRL designated 2023 as the Year of the Volunteers to recognize their efforts, encourage new prospective volunteers to follow their lead, and call existing volunteers to reach one rung higher on the ladder of service. The Volunteers On the Air (VOTA) operating event has been popular among hams, with some operators making nearly 30,000 QSOs throughout the yearlong activation.
A young man from north Texas emerged as a leader. Sam Lovett, KI5RSV, is just a teenager but has been awarded the 2023 Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Award for his success with developing interest in amateur radio among his peers. He leads a youth net and has been instrumental in building a strong ham culture in his Trail Life USA troop. A video interview with Sam will be featured in the February 2023 digital edition of QST.
Lyn Alfman, N8IMW, of Norwich, Ohio, was honored for her volunteer work in the public information space. She received the 2023 ARRL Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award. The proclamation issued by the ARRL Board of Directors says that Lyn “exemplifies the skills and depth of understanding [needed] to convey to media outlets the fascinating world of amateur radio.”
ARRL’s George Hart Distinguished Service Award honors the work member-volunteers put in to use their license privileges to serve others. Jo Ann Keith, KA5AZK, of Diana, Texas, is the 2023 recipient.
Jo Ann is the net manager of the 7290 Traffic Net, a public service traffic net that has been in operation since 1953. She has a long history of volunteer work, dating back to her youth when she served as a candy striper. Like tens of thousands of others, Jo Ann uses amateur radio in the spirit of service.
These are just a few stories that can be told from the Year of the Volunteers. There are so many other stories out there, and we encourage you to tell your own.
While the Volunteers on the Air event closes on December 31, 2023 at 2359 UTC, the spirit of this year will continue as long as there are hams standing to serve others through amateur radio.
From all of us at ARRL, thank you!