When a member of the National Guard interrupted Duxbury resident Bruce Katz’s business meeting, he had no idea what was going on.Katz, director of finance at Shaw’s Supermarket, recently received the Service Member Patriot Award from the Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
Katz was nominated by fellow associate Jennifer Vaillancourt for his support and flexibility in helping her juggle work and taking care of her two children – Zoe, 5, and Zachary, 2 – during her husband’s deployment.
When Technical Sergeant Keith Vaillancourt, an F15 Weapons System Specialist with the Mass. Air National Guard, was deployed in March to an undisclosed location in the Middle East, Katz helped change Jennifer’s schedule so that she would be able to get her kids to and from daycare.
“It was very difficult at times to be separated from my husband, especially since I was not privy to his exact location,” Jennifer said. “It made it hard to watch the news or read the paper without worrying that it could be him in harm’s way.”
Jennifer said Katz was instrumental in helping maintain her family’s lifestyle with as much normalcy as possible. Because her husband could only contact the family during certain hours, Katz also allowed her to Skype with him during office hours.
“When your spouse is deployed, that minimal contact with him becomes an important part of your life,” she said. “Bruce truly understood just how important it was for me and my family to do everything we could to stay close to each other during that difficult time.”
Two weeks ago, Katz was sitting in a meeting when his boss and a member of the National Guard interrupted the meeting to give him the award.
“I had no idea it was coming,” he said. “At first I thought I was getting fired.”
According to the ESGR Web site, the award “reflects the efforts made to support Citizen Warriors” by being flexible and allowing time off. Nominees receive a certificate and accompanying pin.
When Keith returned in July, the Vaillancourts attended a post-deployment yellow ribbon event for returning airmen. It was there that they learned of the Patriot Award. They decided it was the best way to fully express their gratitude to Katz.
“Bruce was always supportive and there to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on,” Jennifer said. “I truly feel that my family could not have come through this as well as we did without his support.”
Despite his recent recognition, Katz remained modest in his efforts to help his co-worker.
“My part was very insignificant,” he said. “I was flexible and offered moral support; that was the extent of it.”
Katz is planning on hanging the framed award in his office and said he would have done the same thing for any of his employees.
“I believe in a work and life balance and in supporting families,” he said. “Jen is a terrific employee and I was happy to help.”