Lynnville-Sully Superintendent receives Patriot Award

The simple phrase – “We will support you” – was all the boost Melanie Sharp, Lynnville-Sully’s middle school language arts teacher, needed to take a leap of faith and climb the ranks of command within the Iowa National Guard the summer of 2023. Sharp already had support from her husband Todd and three children, but worries surrounding how she could whole-heartedly serve her country while giving the same time and dedication to the students she teaches at Lynnville-Sully lingered. Enter those four words of encouragement from L-S superintendent Matt Dunsbergen – “We will support you.” This last key piece of support helped launch Sharp on a path in which she now serves as Commander of Iowa National Guard’s 135th Mobile Public Affairs detachment (MPAD).

In 1999, Sharp started as a Cadet in the 135th MPAD, commissioned to Second Lieutenant in 2002, and has served as Commander for the 1088th Personnel Detachment and Deputy J1 for the 671st Troop Command. She stepped away from the service in 2010 to focus on raising her children. Nearly 11 years after completing a near 11-year term, Sharp reenlisted with the Iowa National Guard.

With Dunsbergen’s support and oath that the school district would fully support her growing commitment to the United States, Sharp applied and was selected as Commander of the 135th MPAD, a role she officially took on in mid-September.

Sharp knows the school’s commitment and support of her service requires sacrifice given the responsibilities she has with the Iowa National Guard. To show her deep appreciation, Sharp nominated Dunsbergen for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award. The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed. In her nomination, Sharp wrote, “The Lynnville-Sully School District has provided me with understanding, flexibility, and encouragement that has been instrumental in allowing me to fulfill my duties and responsibilities as a Captain in the Iowa Army National Guard and as an educator with the District. Having the support from the School District empowers me to give my all in both my military role as well as my educator role. Not only is my leadership extremely supportive of me, but so are the students that I teach. This combined support is a driving force for me to continue my journey. I’m grateful beyond words to have a leader who not only understands my military commitment, but also actively encourages me and supports me along the way.”

L-S middle school teacher and Commander of Iowa National Guard's 135th Mobile Public Affairs detachment Melanie Sharp embraces L-S Superintendent Matt Dunsbergen as ESGR Ombudsman Director Jim Freese awards Dunsbergen with the Patriot Award.

The ESGR agreed with Sharp and did not hesitate in recognizing Dunsbergen with the Patriot Award. “Supportive employers like Lynnville-Sully School District are vital to the success of our mission and the defense of this nation,” said Becky Coady, Iowa ESGR State Chair. “Our Guard and Reserve members could not perform their military duty without knowing their civilian employers support them 100%.”

On Monday, Nov. 27, ESGR Ombudsman Director Jim Freese, along with Commander Sharp, presented the Patriot Award to Dunsbergen during a school-wide afternoon assembly. The award recognizes Dunsbergen as a “Patriotic Employer for contributing to the national security and protecting liberty and freedom by supporting employee participation in America’s National Guard and Reserve Force.” After the award presentation, Sharp spoke to the crowd of L-S K-12 students and staff emphasizing her appreciation for the support of her colleagues as she considered and applied for the office of Commander. “I am beyond grateful for the support that I am shown here, not only supported but encouraged. Thank you,” said Sharp.

The power of a supportive relationship touched the heart of Freese, who has presented many awards during his time as an ESGR volunteer. Following the ceremony, Freese said, “I’ve presented many, many awards, but this was easily the best. You and Matt are obviously loved and appreciated by everyone. It’s amazing. It really is. I’ve always said that success isn’t measured by rank or awards. It’s measured by the impact you’ve had on others. Your civilian and military careers are really just getting started, but already you’re a tremendous success.”


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