Aflac Team Unity Region - Infinity District Coordinator A.J. Chrest was preparing for what she thought was a regular team meeting Monday morning.
But as more individuals filed into the office, she began to suspect something was amiss.
As it turns out, they were all there to surprise Chrest with the Patriot Award, presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (EGSR) organization on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, for her support of one of her employees, Sgt. Davis Jimenez.
The Patriot Award is an award from the U.S. DOD, which according the ESGR website recognizes, “individual supervisors and bosses for support provided directly to the nominating service member and his or her family, (and) reflects the effort 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.”
While on deployment, Jimenez, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, heard about the award, and decided to nominate Chrest for her and her team’s efforts to support him during his recent deployment to Iraq.
“My team back home kept me up to date on everything that was happening,” Jimenez said. “The care packages, the Oreos, the Doritos, the letters, all the stuff was amazing. I remember just getting some of that stuff and sharing it with my friends and just having fun.”
The care packages, he said, also included new team gear as the team was transitioning to new market and regional leadership during his deployment. Their regional territory was realigned to include southwest Kansas from Barton County to Wichita, south into Oklahoma, and west to the Kansas-Colorado border.
“(It was) some big changes that do not effect day-to-day stuff, but nobody likes those kind of surprises so I just kept him in the loop,” Chrest said.
He said he was glad and surprised when he heard last week that Chrest had been chosen to be honored.
EGSR Area Chairman Mike Frederiksen and Hutchinson Area ESGR representative Dale Henderson made the trip to Great Bend Monday morning to present the award.
Frederiksen said it’s important to recognize employers for their support of service members because the employer plays such a crucial role in the lives of service members and their families.
“It’s a time-honored tradition that the employer has supported the employee who is in the service,” said Frederiksen,
“When he goes away, he’s worried about his job, they’re all worried about their job,” Frederiksen said. “And you make it so he doesn’t have to worry about it.”
Chrest, though, was hesitant to take credit for the award.
“I don’t know that I necessarily feel like I deserve an award,” she said. “I think it’s important for employers to support our military people when they get deployed, and for them to feel secure. We did our best to show him we supported that he was still a part of this team while he was gone.
“(The armed forces are) the front line of everything our country stands for,” Chrest said. “I’m glad we have people that are willing to serve in that capacity.”
Chrest said she is honored to be able to support Davis and other service members for what they do. “If I am not able to go serve myself, I can’t think of anything better to do than to be able support that do serve,” she said.
Though the Freedom Award is an individual award, Frederiksen advised the team they have also been nominated for the Above and Beyond Award, an ESGR state team award to, “recognize employers at the local level who have gone above and beyond ... by providing their Guard and Reserve employees additional, non-mandated benefits such as differential or full pay to offset lost wages, extended health benefits, and other similar benefits.”
This award will be presented at a ceremony in Topeka on April 25, and the team has been invited to attend.