The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense Program, presented Chancellor Randy Pembrook and Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker with the Patriot Award.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a program that promotes support of service members by their employers.
The Patriot Award is given to individual supervisors nominated by an employee serving in the National Guard or Reserve, or the spouse of Guard or Reserve member.
According to their website, “The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence if needed.”
Walker said he was surprised to receive the award.
“It surprised me to think that would give an award to an employer who just does the right thing for their employees,” Walker said.
Walker’s father served in the Navy in the Korean War, and Rich Walker was selected as an Honorary Base Commander at Scott Air Force Base for two years as a community outreach program.
After serving at Scott Air Force Base, Walker joined a community group called the Military Affairs Committee. According to Walker, the committee keeps the community informed on what is happening at Scott Air Force Base, and the leaders in the community are able to help the military families located there in any way they can.
Director of Facilities Management Craig Holan nominated Walker and Pembrook for the award.
Holan has been in the military since 1983 and currently serves as a colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard. He has been in the National Guard since 2006.
Holan works both at SIUE and in the National Guard, and he said he nominated both men because they go farther than needed when it comes to accommodating him if he needs time off to serve in the National Guard.
“I nominated them because, in my position as a director, it gets very difficult for both of them when I’m not here, and I’m on military duty,” Holan said. “They’ve both been very supportive of that — beyond what the law requires. That lets me go and do my duty with the confidence that things are being handled back here at the university.”
The Patriot Award is described as an award for employers who support their service member employees in any way they can. Most of the support comes from employers allowing service members time to attend training programs or other duties that come from the service.
“We want to support those who serve in the Guard and Reserve, recognizing that more than half of our military in the United States are made up of volunteers. So, that’s a pretty high priority,” Walker said.
Walker said another way that SIUE supports military employees is it offers tuition waivers for students whether they are actively serving or veterans.
To continue this support, Walker hopes to keep doing what he has already been doing while also encouraging others to join him as well.
“I want to make sure that supervisors and others on the campus realize that this is not only okay to do, but it’s a good thing to do,” Walker said. “I want to encourage them to support those employees and work with them to be able to do their Guard or Reserve duty.”
Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Doug Mcllhagga said it was an honor for not only the employees who received the award, but also the university.
“We are absolutely pleased to be able to serve the needs of individuals who have served, or are serving, in the military. In this particular instance, we hope the award indicates that we’re doing a good job and meeting the educational goals of those serving in the National Guard and the Reserves,” Mcllhagga said. “We obviously accept this award on behalf of all the SIUE faculty and staff who teach and serve these patriotic individuals every day.”