Serving our country
Electric cooperatives exemplify patriotism in their support of military
As he approached the age cutoff for joining the Army Reserve, Chris Purdy knew the time for serving his country was now or never. He felt called to serve and regretted missing the opportunity to do so 20 years earlier.
It was 2007, six years after the September 11 attacks and the fight against terrorism continued. However, Purdy and his wife Dixie had two school-age children at the time. He worked full time and so did Dixie. He wondered how he could make it work.
The Army Reserve provided him the opportunity and flexibility he needed, so he enlisted. His employer at the time, Panhandle Telephone Cooperative, Inc., was supportive.
The Army Reserve and the Army National Guard are part time and require at least one weekend a month and two weeks a year in training. Soldiers may be called to active duty for extended periods of time. Federal law protects some of their civilian job rights and benefits.
Now a part of the electric cooperative industry, Purdy continues to find support for serving as a reservist. Purdy joined TCEC, an electric cooperative in Hooker, Oklahoma, as vice president of Member Solutions in 2013.
In 2017, Purdy presented CEO Zac Perkins and TCEC with a U.S. Department of Defense patriotic employer award for supporting employee participation in the Army Reserve.
“TCEC has been extremely supportive of my service, with policies that go beyond the law,” Purdy said. “When I asked Zac why, he said it was the right thing to do.”
Several other electric cooperatives in Oklahoma also employ soldiers. They are supportive of them as well.
Oklahoma Electric Cooperative
Travis Danley and Chris Croslin work for Oklahoma Electric Cooperative in Norman. Both are drill sergeants in the Reserve and had positive things to say about Oklahoma Electric Cooperative.
“During annual meeting, they have us come in uniform and do the color guard,” Danley said. “They have gone above and beyond. Being a drill sergeant, orders can come in on short notice. It’s never questioned. Our company is totally supportive.”
Croslin echoed Danley’s sentiments, noting he was gone for much of a year when he was named ‘Drill Sergeant of the Year’ for the Army Reserve in 2014.
Croslin said the most important support he has for his civilian and his military duty is from his family.
“My wife Shelby is the most supportive person I know,” Croslin said. “I have three little girls and I go to college full time too. She keeps the place going and allows me to focus on the things I need to focus on.”
CKenergy Electric Cooperative
Bryant Potts, staking engineer at CKenergy in Binger, said the cooperative’s general manager and board members have been very supportive when he needs to take leave for the military.
Potts has been with the cooperative 11 years and in the military for 23 years. In the Army Reserve, he is a command sergeant major overseeing more than 2,600 soldiers.
When employers hire part-time military personnel and veterans, they’re gaining someone with leadership skills who understands values.
“The military gives an additional skill set,” Potts said. “We abide by seven Army values; the most important to employers are duty and integrity. That value-based training should be very important to employers.”
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) is a generation and transmission cooperative serving many of the distribution cooperatives mentioned in this story. Dustin Chrismon has worked there for six years and is an electrical and instrumentation technician.
Chrismon is a sergeant in the Army Reserve and has served for 21 years. He has been mobilized on active duty within the United States since March.
“Cooperative people are like a family for me,” Chrismon said. “They go above and beyond. When I leave, I know my wife has people she can count on to help.”
Ozarks Electric Cooperative
Cole McGilton is an apprentice lineman at Ozarks Electric Cooperative. Ozarks Electric Cooperative has offices in Stilwell and Westville, Oklahoma. Its headquarters are in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where McGilton is based.
McGilton enlisted in the Army National Guard his junior year of high school. He has served more than four years. McGilton is a specialist in the infantry division.
“I wanted to do a tour overseas and serve my country,” McGilton said. “I volunteered for the tour I went on.”
He has been with Ozarks Electric Cooperative a little over four months and said they have been helpful when he needs leave.
Serving Co-ops & Country
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and seven other cooperatives founded a coalition called Serve our Co-ops; Serve our Country. It is a nationwide initiative to honor and employ veterans, military service members, and their spouses. More information can be found at www.servevets.coop.