Bill Rautenstrauch

Nobody ever said serving in the Oregon National Guard would be easy. But Master Sgt. Nathaniel Schultz found it a little easier during the two recent years he worked for Heart ‘n Home Palliative Care in La Grande.

When he wasn’t serving his state and country as a medic in the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry, Schultz worked as an outreach coordinator for Heart ‘n Home, which provides end-of-life care for patients in eight communities in Oregon and Idaho.

As outreach coordinator, Schultz provided education and other resources for patients and their bereaved families. And as a senior non-commissioned officer with the 3/116th, he was frequently called away from his civilian job on short notice. Often, he was needed to solve urgent problems outside his normal duty days.

Though his military and civilian obligations frequently overlapped, Schultz was always able to keep up. He credits Ryan Leonard, executive director at the La Grande branch of Heart ‘n Home, with making that possible.

“Ryan was highly supportive of me and my mission in the National Guard,” said Schultz, who left Heart ‘n Home last spring to attend nursing school in Washington state.

That support recently earned Leonard and Heart ‘n Home an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award. The award recognizes employers who demonstrate a special commitment to the success of their citizen-soldier workers.

The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a Department of Defense agency that promotes public and private understanding of the National Guard and Reserve in order to gain employer and community support.

In nominating Leonard for the award, Schultz said his boss accommodated him when annual training dates were changed on short notice. He permitted him to leave work early on drill weekends, and allowed him to take calls and answer emails from soldiers during work hours.

“I was told that Heart ‘n Home considered not just me as an employee, but all of the soldiers in our community as their soldiers,” Schultz said.

Schultz said there were times when he arrived back at work late from training, but it was never an issue with his employer.

“Once when I notified Ryan and the team I had pulled over at a rest stop on my way back home at ‘oh-dark-thirty,’ their only concern was my safety,” he said.

With staff looking on in a recent ceremony at Heart ‘n Home’s office on Cove Avenue in La Grande, Leonard accepted the Patriot Award from Jack Johnson, ESGR’s Area 6 Chair. Johnson, of Cove, said the award is part of ESGR’s ongoing effort to recognize outstanding employers.

He said Heart ‘n Home is especially deserving of the honor.

“They’ve got branches all over Idaho and Oregon, and they employ a number of Guard and Reserve members. They go way out to help our military people stay active,” Johnson said.

Leonard said Heart ‘n Home employs veteran and Guard and Reserve members in many of its locations, and is proud to do so.

“It’s in our culture to manage and care about our employees as people, and we have a high level of passion for our veterans. We give them the respect they deserve,” he said.