Two at Milwaukee VA receive Patriot Award - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center

 

Two at Milwaukee VA receive Patriot Award

Mindy Mingerink and Laurie Vail

Maj. Mindy Mingerink, left, stands with her supervisor at the Milwaukee VA, Laurie Vail, after presenting her with the Patriot Award, given to supervisors who go above and beyond to support their employees called to duty in the National Guard and Reserves. (Photo by Benjamin Slane)

By David Walter
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Patriotism comes in many forms.

While we easily recognize those in our military who answer the call, we sometimes forget those back home who quietly rearrange their lives and work in support of them.

But recently, two supervisors with the Milwaukee VA were honored for doing precisely that.

Laurie Vail, Medical Information Systems Division manager, and Jessica Serdynski, chief of Voluntary Services, were presented with the Patriot Award by their employees.

The award goes to supervisors who go above and beyond to support employees often called away from work due to their duties in the National Guard or Reserve.

Vail was honored by Maj. Mindy Mingerink, who is the deputy program manager for benefits management in the MIS Division. Serdynski was honored by Bradlee Gietzel, Voluntary Services specialist.

“I was shocked,” Vail said when she learned of the award. “I wasn’t expecting anything. I feel like it’s my responsibility and obligation to support (Mingerink) because what she does is so important.”

Serdynski also said she was happily surprised by the award.

“It’s such an honor,” she said, noting she comes from a military family. “Working closely with people in the military and Veterans is close to my heart, and as a supervisor, I do what I can to support the military.”

Mingerink said she and Vail have worked together for about five years. However, Mingerink hasn’t been in the office for more than a year, pulled away by her National Guard duties.mindy and laurie

Those included developing training plans and working as an interim deputy commander the last half of 2019. She returned to the office in January, only to leave after about 1.5 months due to COVID-19.

For five months she served as a battalion operations officer, planning and coordinating all of the mobile COVID testing sites in Wisconsin. In August, her role switched to human resources command.

“I’ve been gone for over a year, and (Vail) has supported me every step of the way,” Mingerink said. “She’s held down my job while I’ve been gone; a division manager shouldn’t have to do that, but she did.

“She has never complained about it, never even shown any sign of remorse or upset that I have to leave. She always has a smile on her face, and she outwardly shows her pride.”

Mingerink lauded Vail as an “amazing” supervisor, leader and mentor.

“There are vey few people who can actually, truly lead, and Laurie is one of those people. I’ve always told her: ‘You would have been the most amazing Army officer.’”

In turn, Vail said she and Mingerink have a special relationship.

“Mindy is an incredible leader, and we have mutual admiration for each other,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from her.

“I admire the sacrifices she makes for her family. … I can’t imagine the courage and strength it takes to do what she does. She’s so committed and dedicated.”

Jessica Serdynski and Bradlee Geitzel

Jessica Serdynski, left, chief of Voluntary Services at the Milwaukee VA, stands with her employee Bradlee Geitzel after he presented her with the Patriot Award. (Photo by Gary Kunich)

Gietzel, a Reservist with the 335th Training Support Battalion out of Chicago, said he is called to serve up to 12 weeks a year, conducting training missions throughout the Midwest.

Back home, he is caring for a special-needs child, which sometimes requires time away from work.

But he said Serdynski has always been supportive of him.

“Jess is a pretty amazing supervisor,” he said. “She has been very cooperative with all my military obligations. You don’t see that in an employer very often.”

The Voluntary Services office is small, with only a handful of employees, but they all step up when Gietzel is deployed, Serdynski said.

“We do what we can. We spread the wealth,” Serdynski said. “We’re a small office, and his co-workers are just as supportive of him as I am.”

Serdynski praised Geitzel for his dedication and work ethic.

“A lot of his military training rolls over into his work,” she said. “He knows how to deal with the public when working big events.”

“She’s a great boss,” Geitzel said of Serdynski. “She’s easy to get along with but expects things to get done.

“It’s nice to have an employer who cares about her employees and their families. That’s very different from other places I’ve worked.”

For more information on the Patriot Award, click here.

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