CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Police Department Cpl. Jeff Setser was driving down the road when he was told he'd been called to active duty with the West Virginia National Guard.
"It was a week before Thanksgiving when I found out," said Setser, who is also a major in the Army National Guard.
He would spend the next year in Iraq, putting his police job on hold.
Although federal law requires employers to make accommodations for National Guard members and military reserve personnel who are called up for active duty, some employers balk when their workers are called to serve their country.
Others, like the Charleston Police Department, welcome and encourage guard members and reservists. The police department is one of three state employers chosen as a semifinalist for the national Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Freedom Award given to employers who show unusual support for their workers in uniform.
Joe Holley, chairman of the West Virginia branch of ESGR, said employees themselves make the nominations for the awards.
"Just to have your name in the hat lets me know your employer does things other employers do not, and that your employee recognizes that," he said. "Freedom Award nominees like the Charleston Police Department distinguish themselves by implementing both formal policies and informal initiatives that go above and beyond in assisting and encouraging National Guard and reserve service."
Sgt. Nick Null, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, was called to Iraq twice while serving as a Charleston police officer. Both times, police administrators and fellow officers were supportive, he said.
Null said fellow officers sent care packages overseas for officers who were deployed. Administrators were liberal in granting leave time and making sure reservists got what they needed. He said the attitude extended from Mayor Danny Jones -- a Marine Corps veteran -- on down.
"It's just the whole city," he said.