Randall Bobholz, president of Farmers & Merchants Union Bank in Columbus, was recently honored with a prestigious award from the U.S. military.

The Department of Defense presented Bobholz with the Patriot Award through its Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve at the bank’s main branch Dec. 6. The award honors Bobholz’s and the bank’s dedication and support of loan underwriter William Reece IV while he continues to serve the country. Reece nominated Bobholz for the award.

Bobholz said the bank’s culture has been supportive of employees in the military and their families. Bobholz said he was humbled and honored to receive the Patriot Award.

“As a prior enlisted individual, you do your job and your employer is good about it, but now, as an officer, I’ve got people watching over me and I’m watching over other people’s needs,” Reece said. “At times I’ll hear about other employers hassling people about taking time off. It’s nice I have an employer who is flexible and allows me to take time off to serve and also promotes it, encourages it and wants to learn more about it.”

Reece has served in the Air National Guard for six years. He comes from a long lineage of service members, going back to the Revolutionary War.

“It’s a strong tradition that I wanted to keep going,” Reece said. “When I enlisted, I had the goal of becoming an officer and that opportunity came up in 2015 and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

In addition to his duties at the bank, Reece serves with the Wisconsin Air National Guard as a logistics readiness officer at the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison. Bobholz accepted the award from David Melby, who works for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and Maj. Tom Bauer from the 115th Fighter Wing.

“Without (the employer) he could not do his job and serve our country,” Melby said of Reece. “Some of the things they put him in charge of in the Guard are pretty amazing.”

The bank has allowed Reece to take time needed for training and military service.

“Without the flexibility that Farmers & Merchants has generously granted me, I would not be able to effectively integrate with my unit or succeed in providing excellence in all that we do in the Guard,” Reece said.

The Patriot Award reflects the efforts to support military service members in multiple ways, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence.

“What makes the Guard great is it is full of individuals that want to serve and want to give more volunteer time,” Reece said. “But at the end of the day, we still have a civilian job.”

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask