BEMIDJI — Three area employers received the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program on Wednesday for being supportive to their employees in the National Guard.

Nick Thompson, area manager for Bemidji Schwan’s, JP Corser, quality director for Bemidji Ambulance Services and Jake Howard, personnel director for Bemidji Ambulance Services, received the awards after being nominated by their employees in the National Guard.

The ESGR is a program within the Department of Defense that was established in 1972. The ESGR website says the program’s goal is to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers. It also helps to assist in the resolution of conflicts that may arise from an employee's military commitment.

The awards were presented by Doug Underthun, who retired from the National Guard back 2001 and has been the local representative for the ESGR program for several years.

“When an employee in the National Guard feels like they are getting good support from their employers, they can nominate them for the Patriot Award,” Underthun said. “I go to the units and hand information out about our programs and tell the employee, 'If you really like your employer because they treat you very well and so forth, then put them in for the Patriot Award.' Because it’s good for the employer to be recognized too.”

Nick Thompson was nominated by Guard member Sam Boston, JP Corser and Jake Howard were nominated by Zack Lorton, an EMT at Bemidji Ambulance who in his sixth year in the National Guard.

“It’s really nice when they work with you,” Lorton said of his employers. “Because sometimes things come up where you have to be gone last minute. I remember one time saying to them, 'Well guys I have to be gone for three weeks, in about three days,'” he said with a laugh. “But they were OK with it.”

Even though Lorton is the only member of the National Guard currently employed at Bemidji Ambulance Services they have had several others work there just in the past few years.

“We really appreciate the support, because when you’re gone the last thing you want to think about is if you’re job is still going to be there when you come home,” Lorton said. “It’s nice to have people who support you and have your back. And that’s why I decided to nominate these guys.”

For anyone interested in nominating their employer or getting involved with the ESGR, visit