Our nation undoubtedly relies on Guard and Reserve service members to protect and defend our nation, and as people strive to recognize these men and women for their service, the recognition shouldn't stop there.
The Pleasantville Police Department received recognition in the form of the Seven Seals Award on a recent Friday morning. The award is one of the highest recognitions given to civilians for outstanding patriotic support and cooperation to those that have been called to serve in the armed forces.
"Employers make sacrifices, too," said Donna Clementoni, director of employer outreach for New Jersey for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). "It's very important that (citizen soldiers) have that support. They shouldn't have to worry about job securement. Everybody plays a part in that, and that's why we would like to acknowledge them."
The ESGR, who present the award at both state and national levels, take into account the flexibility and encouragement that employers across the nation provide their employees, according to its website.
Capt. Rocky Melendez, who has served Pleasantville for 22 years, was present to accept the recognition that day.
"It's a great sacrifice that we as individuals do," Melendez said. "We were very honored and humbled by the presentation of the award. We thought it should be the other way around - it should be for these young men and women that have defended our country."
Members of the department who serve as "citizen warriors" are patrolman Miracle Mays, a staff sergeant with the 177th fighter wing; parking-enforcement officer Juan Ogando, a staff sergeant with the 177th fighter wing; patrolman Michael Figueroa, a staff sergeant with the Army; and Detective Chris Taggart, a first sergeant with the 177th fighter wing.
"We have gotten our recognition," Taggart said. "This (award) is to show them that we appreciated it. Everybody plays a part in what we do, and certainly the employers. It's nice that we can recognize what they did and how they still support us. Although I am retiring, we still have (those) that are in the Guard and Reserve, and they are going to continue to support them."
The detective, who has worked for the department for 18 years, has been deployed twice during his time with the PPD, to areas of Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
Taggart also was distinguished by the Air National Guard as "First Sergeant of the Year" for 2011, for "simply doing his job," he said.
However, he knows the PPD made his difficult times easier.
Besides accommodating schedules for both monthly training sessions and possible deployments, the PPD has shown its support in ways other than respecting their employees' military commitments.
"They send care packages of stuff we need over there," Taggart said. "Magazines, TastyKakes," he continued through laughs.
Melendez shaved his head to show support during one of Taggart's recent deployments, Clementoni said.
"Imagine being shorthanded already and then losing a guy, and then having to fill his schedule with other personnel. It does become a little tedious," Melendez admitted. "But in the end, it's a win-win."
The Seven Seals Award represents the seven military reserve components: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard reserves, as well as the Army and Air National Guard.
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