PITTSBURG — Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented two awards from the United States Department of Defense to local businesses Thursday, for their support of the same military family.

The Patriot Award was presented to SEK Interlocal No. 637 and New Hope Services for both companies’ support of Duane and Jennifer Vaughn. Captain Duane Vaughn is a military officer with the Kansas National Guard who is currently on active duty overseas. The awards recognize SEK Interlocal and New Hope for their continued help while he is gone.

“It’s unusual to give two of these awards in the same day,” Local ESGR Volunteer Richard Shaw, who presented the awards, said. “But Jennifer and Duane really felt that both of their employers have gone above and beyond while Duane is overseas.”

Duane is an employee of New Hope Services and said not only his supervisor, Rosie West, but the entire New Hope staff has been more like a family to him than coworkers. Duane spoke to New Hope staff via FaceTime during the ceremony. He said New Hope staff has sent him care packages, as well as attending his sons’ baseball games.

“I wanted to make sure Rosie and everyone know how important their support has been,” he said. “I miss you and love you guys.”

West had no idea the award was coming and was moved by the gesture.

“It’s not often people get something over on me,” she said. “So this is really special.”

Jennifer Vaughn works as a child psychologist at SEK Interlocal, and while usually only the employer of the guardsman or reserve member is awarded, Jennifer felt her employer had been a large help.

“It can be difficult when a member of the family is deployed,” Shaw said. “So it is important for employers to be as supportive as these two have.”

The SEK Interlocal award was accepted by Director Dan Duling.

ESGR is a DOD program, which was established in 1972 following the Vietnam War. According to Shaw, many soldiers returning home from Vietnam lost their jobs and could not get them back. The ESGR assists in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.

Any service member or their spouse can nominate employers for the Patriot Award.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.