Service was instilled and impressed upon Rankins from an early age.
Rankins, who calls North Carolina home, said her father was a medic stationed at Fort Bragg until his retirement in 1972.
"I always knew I was going to be a soldier from when I was little," Rankins said. "And I can remember him actually coming home in his uniform, and back then I think it was actually the fatigues or the brown uniform, but he would come home all pressed and cleaned and everything, and I was just fascinated. And so I think at that age, I knew I was going to be just like him."
And like her father, Rankins was interested in medicine.
She remembers that when her grandmother had cancer she was curious about the tubes and their function.
"So I think that's where my fascination grew from," she said.
Rankins enlisted in the Army as a nurse in 1987. Her first duty station was Fort Knox, Kentucky.
She retired while at Fort Bragg in 2016 after spending 20 years there. During that time she served with the 44th Medical Brigade and Womack Army Medical Center and deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and Iraq in 2006.
While at Womack, Rankins met then Lt. Col. Tracy Coffin.
Coffin, who retired after 25 years in the Army, was hired last year as project manager for Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity.
And when homes flooded in Rankins' Spring Lake neighborhood in 2018, she reached out to Coffin.
"Our neighborhood turned into a giant river just flowing through that bottom half of it," Rankins said.
Rankins had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity through a soldier support group at Womack Army Medical Center in 2009.
"I knew that Tracy at the time (was with) Habitat for Humanity so I kind of reached out to her and said, 'Hey I got a bunch of homes in Spring Lake and we need your help, come help us.' Little did I know," Rankins said.
Rankins rallied her neighbors - who all happen to be military service connected - from seven homes and emphasized one point.
"I said, 'This is what we're going to do. This is how we're going to do it, and we're all coming home together,'" she said.
Tom Poston, an Air Force veteran who retired from what was then Pope Air Force Base in the mid-1990s after 18 years of service, remembered helping Rankins' community.
Poston was a site coordinator for hurricane relief for Baptists on Mission and teamed up with Habitat for Humanity.
"And it didn't matter if I was working on Avis' house or if I was working on Jennifer Baker's house, Avis was right in there with us, and Mr. Hall and Mr. Crow - everybody - whatever we needed to do that day, everybody jumped in to do it," Poston said.
Rankins said that because Habitat for Humanity was instrumental in getting her neighbors back in their homes, she felt compelled to give back.
"Because they did such a great thing in the community of Spring Lake, not only did they get my neighborhood, but they also went over on Vass Road and helped those residents, too," Rankins said. "So when it gives good to you, you've got to give back to them."
Working through AmeriCorps, Rankins has helped the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity with it latest Veterans Village project that will assist seven veterans with housing in the Oakridge Estates development at Bunce Road and Old Bunce Road.
"She had other job offers, but this, where you can give back to your community and take care of people and help them, there's nothing more satisfying than doing that," Coffin said.
As she did with her Spring Lake neighbors, Rankins is jumping in where she is needed - from building shutters to sweeping streets to picking up nails.
"We say we leave no one behind in war, well here it is in a regular peace time, humanitarian-type mission, we're still not leaving anyone behind," Rankins said.
Rankins said she considers giving back to be essential, and it's something she's trying to instill in her grandchildren.
After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, she said they were at a cemetery and one of her grandsons noticed the flooding and asked a question.
"He said, 'But granny look at all the flowers. Who's going to put them back?' And I said, 'Well, we're standing here boys,' and they began to put all the flowers back on the grave," Rankins said. "So I think if we start them at a younger age, instilling that community service as they grow, it'll stay with them."
Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com
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