Employer Helps with Life on the Farm, Military Wife Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2007 - Although Jessica Strasser's husband is now deployed to Afghanistan with his Iowa Army National Guard unit, she says life on the farm is immeasurably easier thanks to his employer.

Jessica's husband, 1st Sgt. Matthew T. Strasser, is employed by Augustine and Sons, Inc., a 150-year-old family farm in Rose Hill, Iowa. The Strassers and their two sons, Reece, 9, and Tyler, 7, live rent-free and farm on Augustine and Sons-owned acreage.

Matthew is a professional farmer who has grown corn, soybeans and hay and tended cattle and hogs for Augustine and Sons for five years now, Jessica said.

Strasser, who deployed to Afghanistan in May, nominated his civilian employer to receive the prestigious Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Augustine and Sons is among 15 businesses and organizations selected to receive this year's Freedom Award, which recognizes exemplary support for employees in the Guard or reserve.

"They do so much for us, I mean, stuff that they don't have to do," said 35-year-old Jessica, who has a full-time job away from the farm. "They take the time to help us out."

Augustine and Sons has helped her sons care for their three Black Angus and three Charolais cattle, Jessica said, as well as performing various household chores, such as cutting grass and making repairs. Augustine and Sons also provides Matthew's yearly bonus while he's deployed.

Jessica said her husband's civilian employer also takes her sons to observe company farming operations on weekends.

"That's really good, because it helps to fill their time while their father is gone," she said.

Jessica said her 32-year-old husband helps train Afghan National Army soldiers.

"We're very supportive of his time in the National Guard," she said. "He tells me that they're making progress with his mission."

Matthew "is making a difference" in Afghanistan, Jessica pointed out. "And, that's important," she said.

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, manages the award process.

ESGR assists Guard and Reserve members and their employers understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act.

An Augustine and Sons' senior representative will accept the Freedom Award on behalf of his company during a formal ceremony here Sept. 12.
Employer Helps with Life on the Farm, Military Wife Says [ ]