Capt. Mary Dempsey is a soldier in the Army Reserve who is deployed as a logistics officer in Kuwait. Prior to her March 2018 deployment, Dempsey was an integral part of the physical education department teaching staff at St. Charles High School. She describes the news of her deployment as a whirlwind of events, and credits St. Charles staff for helping her quickly transition.

“This commitment that I made did not come without sacrifices that this school had to make along with me,” Dempsey said. To express gratitude to her colleagues, other school staff and principal, Rick Conley, Dempsey nominated her colleagues for the Department of Defense Patriot Award. The award, which recognizes employers for supporting staff who are enlisted in the military, was presented to Conley earlier this week during a surprise announcement.

Warren Johnson, a retired Major with the U.S. Air Force, is part of the Maryland State Committee of the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, the organization that selects Patriot Award recipients annually. He presented Conley with the award Sept. 25 during a surprise staff meeting. “This award is the most coveted award … it reaches people who are supporting our military members. It is presented by all branches of the military, the seven seals, including the National Guard and the Reserves,” Johnson said.

Key criteria for the award include employer support of flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, family care and providing leaves of absences, if necessary. Because of Dempsey’s deployment, she was not present for the award presentation. However, she provided comments to Marquelle Peavy, administrative assistant at St. Charles, to read aloud during the award presentation that reflect Dempsey’s gratitude.

“I have always had a lot of military obligations to fulfill while teaching here and I am thankful for everyone’s support. I wanted to figure out a way to thank this school for their support and when I heard about the Patriot Award I knew that this school deserved it for how supported I have felt. I have never felt as though my military service was an inconvenience or annoyance,” she wrote.

Dempsey joined Charles County Public Schools as a physical education teacher at North Point High School in 2014 and transferred to St. Charles at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Conley said in addition to traditional health and physical education courses, Dempsey led several lifeguard courses that require specialized training. He described her as a community-oriented person who is kind and enjoys giving back.

Peavy worked with Johnson to plan the surprise award presentation to Conley, who said the award is reflective of the entire St. Charles staff. “This is about the school. I was never nervous about how it would impact us here. We put her in touch with the right people and worked with an amazing team to support her as much as we could in her exit,” Conley said to his staff. “This award is as much about all of you as it is about me … even more so about all of you.”

During the presentation, Johnson presented Conley with a Patriot Award plaque. “Capt. Dempsey’s nomination details the support she received here to help her transition to her deployment. The award committee felt Mr. Conley has gone above and beyond to support her deployment,” Johnson said.

Any employee serving in the National Guard or Reserve, or their spouse, can nominate an employer for the award. The Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve is broken down in to state committees that review nominations and select award recipients. Visit www.esgr.mil for more information.