Michelle Bruney missed the U.S. Navy after serving from 2000 to 2004, so she decided to fill this void by joining the Naval Reserves.
"I knew it was something I had to do," she said. "I had a determined passion. I had the support of everybody."
She expressed her gratitude for the unwavering support of her boss, Attorney Jeremy Buckmaster, who owns Buckmaster & Ellzey in Daytona Beach. To show her appreciation, she nominated him for a "Patriotic Employer" Award.
On Dec. 22, Buckmaster was presented the award by Michael Gallucci, who represented the office of the Employer Supporter of Guard and Reserve, which is under the Department of Defense.
Bruney isn't the only colleague at Buckmaster & Ellzey to serve her country. Attorney David Ellzey, Jr., who works alongside Buckmaster and Bruney, served in the U.S. Air Force for four years, and has been a member of the Air National Guard since 2001. He also recommended his boss for the Patriotic Employer Award.
Last year, Ellzey was commissioned to be an officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps., which required the law firm to make a lot of adjustments. Looking back, Buckmaster said, "It was a crazy year."
Ellzey said that Jeremy had to cover his cases, and together, they planned how to make it all happen. "By serving, I make sacrifices, but employers also make sacrifices."
According to Gallucci, the number of people in guards and reserves has increased dramatically since the military action in the Persian Gulf began in the 1990s.
"The support of the employer is critical," said Gallucci. "There are federal laws in place, but without the support of the community, they don't mean much."
Bruney, a paralegal at Buckmaster & Ellzey and a third class petty officer in the reserves said that Buckmaster has been "extremely supportive and flexible" with their military schedules and also last minute changes.
"With every drill weekend that I have had to do and a two-week training period in Hawaii, he has been very supportive," she said. "I am so pleased that my employer is recognized for this award. It is well deserved."
Though Buckmaster never served in the military, he said that that was one of the "big disappointments" in his life.
"This is my chance to give back," he said.
Buckmaster said that while there are hardships for the employer, they pale in comparison to the hardships of the military, whose members have to switch back and forth between civilian and military responsibilities.
"The real sacrifice is being done by these two people," he said.