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Head Start gets Patriot Award

Head Start director Val Arnquist accepts the Patriot Medal from Doug Broich, chairperson of the Region Three Employer Support of Guard and Reserve program. From left: Carol Boyer, chief financial officer of West Central Minnesota Communities Action; Arnquist; Broich; Osakis Head Start teacher and Commander Chessie Andrist. (Contributed)

When a Minnesota National Guard captain sought a job interview with Head Start, the organization gave her a chance for an interview, then hired her and supported her while she served overseas.

Now that captain, Chessie Andrist, who teaches Head Start in Osakis, has returned the favor, nominating the Head Start director for a Department of Defense award.

Val Arnquist, who directs the Head Start office of West Central Minnesota Communities Action in Elbow Lake, accepted the Patriot Award on Friday, Dec. 15 at a meeting in Alexandria.

In her nomination, Andrist called Arnquist "an amazing leader." She wrote, "The patriotism that WCMCA-Head Start has for all members of the armed forces is impeccable. ... When I deployed overseas (2015-2016), the men and women of this organization made me feel just as valuable on the frontline as I was on the home-front."

When she returned from overseas duty, Andrist said, "I was welcomed and incorporated as if I had never left. I have never felt like I belonged to an organization more than I do with (West Central Minnesota Communities Action). Val's recognition to the sacrifices of family members and those who serve the country, prove her selflessness and wholehearted compassion to serving the community. I felt that no one deserves this award more than Val and the entire team at (West Central Minnesota Communities Action)."

Andrist, a 12-year National Guard veteran, serves as the Company Commander of Headquarters Company, 682nd Engineer Battalion in St. Cloud.

The award was given through a defense department program, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. That program began in 1972 as a way to encourage employers to support the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve in the United States. For more information, call 800-336-4590 or visit or visit