July 1, 2010 - library proud of returning soldier
Dean Ruppelt is a patriot.
He served in the Army Reserves from 1982-1987. He served another stint in the Navy from 1987-1991. In September of 2007, he joined the National Guard.
In August of 2008 he got married (on 08/08/08, in fact - a brilliant stratagem to make the date itself memorable.)
And on January 2009, he got called up.
At Fort Hood he got two months training. He left for Kuwait at the end of June, where he got two more week's training, this time in dealing with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
On July 12, 2009, he arrived in Iraq.
Dean told me that the surge he was part of marked the biggest military deployment from Colorado since World War II.
There's a program called anysoldier.com that links up soldiers that don't have folks to write them. But Dean didn't need that. He not only had a wife, but it happens that before he went to Iraq he was a maintenance technician for the Douglas County Libraries. He has a lot of friends there.
Thanks to the indefatigable work of Lisa Casper (who works both at our Highlands Ranch Library and at the nearby Tattered Cover), his supervisor Wes Cook, and many other library employees, Dean got a steady stream of emails, movies, socks, bars of soap, and candy.
Nothing went to waste, he said. The great favorite was candy, but for a surprising reason. The soldiers would pass them along to Iraqi children - a way to make friendly connections in a time of trouble.
At night, the soldiers would sit outside together and read stories from their pen pals. Dean's stories were about people and places he actually knew. That makes a difference.
Before Dean left for Iraq, he put in 17 days a year to drill with the Reserve. The library paid him for those days. While he was in Iraq, the library held his job for him - as indeed it was obligated to do under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Acts. Meanwhile, staff even sponsored a plaque for him at the Highlands Ranch Veterans Monument.
But of the 24 people in Dean's platoon, 6 people came back unemployed. You can't hold onto somebody else's job if you go out of business yourself. Dean admits that he was worried - the library has lost quite a few jobs through attrition over the past year.
When he got home (March 31, 2010) Dean was grateful to have work to return to. Direct exposure to war changes people. It's a lot to process. He said that coming back to people and work he knew made it easier to readjust.
But then Dean did something to express his gratitude. He nominated the Douglas County Libraries for a "Patriotic Employer" Award. It was a tricky thing; he had to submit it five times. But eventually, the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve granted it.
The award was presented to me on behalf of the library on May 28, 2010. We're having it framed, and will post it at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock.
That occasion gave me the opportunity to say three things. First, the people who work at the library were greatly relieved to have Dean come back to us, safe. Second, I am deeply proud of Dean for his extraordinary sacrifices for his country, and that pride is widely shared throughout our library. Third, it's ironic that the library gets the award for patriotism.
Dean Ruppelt is a patriot.
LaRue's Views are his own.