News: ESGR honors employer for support of Wisconsin Guard spouse
Story by Vaughn Larson
MARSHFIELD, Wis. — Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.
When Racheale Ward's husband Blair, a major with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, was preparing to deploy to Kosovo in 2011, she informed her supervisors at Security Health Plan in Marshfield.
"It was immediately, 'what can we do to help support you?' knowing she had a young child at home," said Ginger Wolf, then one of Racheale's supervisors. They reduced her work schedule from 40 to 32 hours per week, allowing her more time to manage duties at home. "Our human resources department made it very easy for us to work with her to do that."
"It really was the employer effort — we're just instruments of the employer," added Chris Bruni, another of Racheale's supervisors at the time. "We work for a great employer that really recognizes the service of our military and the needs of the families that are staying behind."
"Throughout the year they were so supportive," Racheale said of her supervisors. "My husband mentioned the Patriot award when he returned from Kosovo and I jumped at the chance — I wanted to do something to thank them for supporting me, and they were pleasantly surprised."
And so, Wolf and Bruni received "My Boss is a Patriot" awards from the Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) at the company headquarters Thursday (March 14).
"It's really humbling for me," Bruni said of the award. "We don't feel we've done anything. Blair's the one who's done everything, and Racheale taking care of the family at home. They're the ones that have put forth the effort."
Racheale said that the support she received from her employers made that effort much easier.
"At the time Jocelyn was two-and-a-half years old — I had concerns because our family members live between two and three hours away," Racheale said. "I had concerns because working five days a week and adjusting to be a good mom, I didn't know how I would do that.
"I had a full day to really take care of things, household matters, regroup and be a good mom," she continued. "It allowed me the time to take care of things I probably would not have been able to take care of — doing the grocery shopping for the week, paying the bills, taking care of appointments."
Her husband Blair, who supported Multinational Battle Group-East during the deployment as a command judge advocate, said the prospect of being away from his family was an "indescribable feeling."
"We had a two and a half year old daughter and she seemed to take most of our time when it was the three of us," Blair said. "When Racheale told me that her employer was going to reduce her work schedule, that gave me significant peace of mind — not just when she told me but throughout my deployment because I was better able to focus on my mission versus thinking about what was going on back home."
Brig. Gen. Scott Legwold, director of the Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Staff, explained that employer support is essential to keeping the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve — which account for one-half of the U.S. Army — ready.
"We represent the citizenry of the nation," Legwold said. "When Congress calls, when the president calls, we go on your behalf and we go execute the nation's will wherever it's required."
According to Tim Flatley, an employer support specialist with the Wisconsin ESGR, the "My Boss is a Patriot" award was expanded in 2011 to include employers of military spouses. Six of the 68 ESGR Patriot awards presented so far this year have been to military spouse employers, and last year accounted for 12 of the 216 Patriot awards.