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Corps honors 'deployees,' families in ceremony

Oct. 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Between U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees who have been deployed and their family and loved ones at home are members of the Huntington Employee Assistance Resource Team, or H.E.A.R.T., who bridge the gap of making sure loved ones at home have everything they need.

Those Corps employees -- or deployees -- their families and H.E.A.R.T. members were on the receiving end of well-earned recognition Tuesday evening during a dinner at Ohio University's Proctorville Center.

While Corps employees are civilians, they can volunteer for deployment as support staff for the U.S. Army, for whom they provide infrastructure services on their bases in Afghanistan. Employees from the Huntington Corps District have been serving in the Middle East on a consistent basis since 2003, said Sharon Mers, chairwoman for H.E.A.R.T.

To date, 48 Huntington District employees have volunteered for deployment, with many of them doing so on multiple occasions.

Mers, who also is a Corps employee, served with her husband in Afghanistan for nine months in 2009. She said he has been deployed several times while she stayed home, so she knows the importance of having the support while a spouse or family member is overseas.

"It's very important to know someone is there to take care of your family when you can't be there," Mers said. "With all of the storms this spring, there were times when the deployees couldn't get in touch with their families when there were power outages and cell phone tower problems, so there were H.E.A.R.T. members checking up on their families to make sure they were safe and providing them with whatever assistance they needed at the time."

The efforts of H.E.A.R.T. volunteers earned the group the 2012 National Family Readiness Outstanding Team Achievement Award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Col. Steven McGugan assumed command of the Huntington District in July, and he said he hopes the employees and their families know they are appreciated by their communities.

"More than anything we hope their communities can be proud of these local people who, like our soldiers, volunteer to serve their country," McGugan said. "It's not every day you can find people who are dedicated enough to sacrifice their time to do this work."

The Huntington Employee Assistance Resource Team is a volunteer organization. For more information, call the Huntington District Public Affairs office at 304-399-5353.

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