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When Sgt. 1st Class Cody Krepline returned from Afghanistan after his 2013 deployment with the Wisconsin Army National Guardís Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, he began the process of reintegrating back into civilian life.

He found a job with the Ariens Company in his hometown Brillion, Wisconsin, and returned to his life as a husband and father of three children under the age of six.

But Kreplineís reintegration was far from seamless, and he struggled with a variety of post-deployment issues that ultimately affected his ability to be an effective employee and father figure. However, his new employer ó and specifically, his two direct line supervisors ó stood by his side and allowed Krepline to get the support and treatment he needed to get his life back to a better place.

Grateful for the companyís unwavering support, Krepline nominated his employer for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award, which recognizes supervisors for outstanding support for reserve component service members and their families. The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures that may include flexible duty schedules or time off prior to and after a deployment or activation.

In Kreplineís case, supervisors Dave Lutterman and Dan Barker allowed the three-time combat deployment veteran and Bronze Star Medal-winner to take the time he needed to get proper treatment and assistance.

ìThey have actually re-written the attendance policy for me,î Krepline said of his supervisors at Ariens. ìTechnically I should have been terminated from the company, but they made an exception realizing that I had issues. And Iím willing to go and deal with them, so theyíre working with me on adjusting the policy to keep me an employee because of what I can bring to the company.î

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsinís assistant adjutant general for Army, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, the stateís senior noncommissioned officer joined Krepline at Ariens Companyís Brillion headquarters Aug. 11 to present the Patriot Award in front of the entire company and thank them for their support.

When service members are deployed, they rely on the strength of their families back home to allow them to focus on their mission, Anderson said. But another important aspect of ensuring a service member is focused and ready to complete their mission is the knowledge that they have the support of their employer when they are called to military duty.

ìItís with the support of the employers knowing that when they go overseas, first of all that we as a National Guard or we as a reserve component are going to take care of their families the best that we are able,î Anderson said at the Aug. 11 ceremony. ìBut also understanding that when service members go overseas, they can go over with the full confidence that when they come back, theyíre coming back to their job.î

Knowing that their home lives and jobs are secure is critical in allowing deployed service members to focus on their missions.

ìOur citizen warriors cannot defend our nation and protect us at home and abroad without the continued promise of meaningful employment for themselves and their families,î Jeff Unger, the Wisconsin transition assistance adviser and an ESGR volunteer said.

Ariens Company CEO Dan Ariens also signed an ESGR Statement of Support during the dayís proceedings, which officially pledges his company to act as an advocate for its employeesí participation in the military.

ìEmployers are critical to maintaining the strength and the readiness of our nationís Guard and Reserve.î Unger said.

ìI know what we do is very small compared to what the women and men like Cody do and what they have to sacrifice,î Kreplineís supervisor Dave Lutterman said. ìTheir efforts are what make companies like ours succeed. To me no matter how small anything we can do to help or aid them is part of being a leader and is also an honor. I am proud to work beside them and have them as part of our team.î

Kreplineís other supervisor, Dan Barker, agreed.

ìThe men and women like Cody ó and there are many of them ó do so much, and give so much of themselves, that the least we can do as employers is treat them with the respect and dignity that their sacrifices deserve,î he said. ìDoing what is right should be a basic part of my job, and I would not deserve my job if I did not at least do that.î

In his Freedom Award nomination letter, Krepline wrote of his supervisors, ìThey recognize my military service and sacrifice. They understand the fact that my disability as a result of my military service puts an additional strain on supervisors and the company, but they have remained steadfast and have supported my family while I rehabilitate. To me, that is the mark of leadership, and on behalf of my family, I sincerely appreciate what they do for us and the company. Their support is priceless.î

ESGR was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers, and the organization works to encourage meaningful employment for citizen service members.