At last week’s school board meeting, Dawn Cilley, wife of Army National Guard Sgt. Jon Cilley, thanked her employers, Dr. Ronna Cadarette, Winnisquam Regional High School principal, and Special Education director Lori Krueger, for their support during her husband’s latest overseas deployment. On hand to present the special Patriot Awards from the national Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program was N.H. director James Goss. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 30, 2011TILTON — At the last meeting of the Winnisquam School Board, district employee Dawn Cilley was accompanied by her husband, Sgt. First Class Jon Cilley of the Army National Guard, along with James Goss, executive director of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, who asked to step forward and thank the district for its support during Sgt. Cilley's most recent overseas deployment.
The ESGR awards were originally presented only to employers of Guard and Reserve members for support during their deployment. As overseas conflicts have continued over the past several years, the Defense Department has come to also recognize the support spouses receive in the workplace while their husbands or wives are away.
Cilley told the school board that as a district employee over the past six years, she has served in many capacities until the summer of 2010, when she was hired as a secretary for the Special Education Department at Winnisquam Regional High School.
Shortly after starting her new position, her husband, a fulltime member of the Guard, was sent off for duties in Kuwait, leaving her and their two daughters behind. The couple's oldest child has medical conditions which require special care and hospitalization at times, and Cilley was left alone to handle not just a new job, but her children's daily needs and medical care, as well.
While Lori Krueger, head of special education for the district, was aware of Cilley's upcoming challenges, few others in the district had that knowledge. Finally, the time came, Cilley said, for her to inform WRHS Principal Ronna Cadarette of the situation.
"In mid-September (2010), I let Ronna in on my personal life…probably not what an administrator wants to hear from someone who is new to a job, but she assured me that the high school staff would be there to support me in whatever I needed," Cilley told the school board.
She said things went relatively smoothly when her husband first left for Kuwait, but Cadarette and Krueger were always there for her when she needed someone to talk to.
In January of 2011, however, her parents, always a crucial support system throughout any of their son-in-law's deployments, had a crisis of their own. Facing severe medical problems, they were not able to help their daughter with the children as they had in the past, and in fact, now needed her support.
When Krueger and Cadarette heard of the situation, Cilley said they made sure arrangements had been made for the care of her daughters, then sent her off to focus on her father and his health.
Throughout her father's medical issues, her daughter's surgeries and all the other worries the wife of a military man deals with daily, Cilley said she received unending care and support from her co-workers, and the district as a whole.
"It was almost like Ronna just knew when I called to tell her things (from her daughter's surgeries) didn't go as expected… and it would take me out of work for several weeks. She never blinked," Cilley said.
Kreuger, she said, was just as supportive, and everyone at WRHS did all they could to fill her job responsibilities while she cared for her ill daughter and father.
"Lori continued to tell me everything would be okay, and not to worry about my job — there would be plenty to do when I returned," she said.
Both administrators assured her family came first and she needed to care for them while her husband was gone.
When Sgt. Cilley returned home this fall, the couple was asked to attend an event for returning soldiers, and it was there that Cilley discovered how they could thank all who had supported her and their children through a most difficult year.
Goss made the trip up from his office in Concord to present plaques for the Patriotic Employer Award to both Cadarette and Krueger, which recognized them as being a support to a spouse of the National Guard and Reserve troops during deployment in service to the United States of America. They also received special pins as a token of the Guard's appreciation.
A second presentation was made to Superintendent Dr. Tammy Davis on behalf of the district as a whole, but Cilley requested that Southwick School Principal Richard Heins and Middle School Assistant Principal Shannon Kruger also accept the award in recognition of their support schools' for her daughters.
"I cannot leave out the fact that (Hines and Kruger) truly supported our children through a tough year last year, and we will be forever grateful to both of them," said Cilley.
Goss told the school board it is always an honor to make such presentations, and thanked them for supporting the family of a deployed service member.
"Everybody has to pick up the little pieces and help hold things together for a family such as this while their spouse is away," he said.
After the presentations, Sgt. Cilley said he deeply appreciated the support his family received while he was deployed, and was grateful Goss and the ESGR were able to help he and his wife thank the school district for that added understanding and assistance when they needed it.
Sgt. Cilley said each time he has to leave home, it's difficult but he has come to learn he can count on the WRSD to help his wife and daughters in his absence.
"The Winnisquam Regional School District has been very beneficial to my family. Southwick School and the Middle School were excessively supportive of my daughters, and the high school was so good to my wife. It was the one area I didn't have to worry about while I was away," said Sgt. Cilley.
Sgt. Cilley is a member of the 197th Fire Brigade, stationed in Manchester.