Sanford Health surprises two workers with veterans awards

One wanted to thank the other; they both were honored at once for their service

Anthony “Tony” Sutter thought it was just another Monday.

The Sanford Health power plant technician was invited to a meeting at the Sanford Veterans Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sutter had no idea what the meeting was about.

Turns out, it was all about him.

‘There was a lot of emotion involved’

Sutter lives in Harrisburg, South Dakota, and is part of a neighborhood watch program. Recently one of his neighbors noticed a Purple Heart sign had been vandalized. Sutter immediately wanted to do something about it.

Related: How Sanford Health supports veterans and military members

Sutter himself has served the country on and off since 2006. Over the last 14 years, he’s been stationed in South Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Fort Collins, Colorado. Sutter says that since he “knows signs,” he knows very well how to clean them.

“They’re usually laminated. So, you’re not really going to damage it if you use a lacquer thinner.

“I had the ability to get those materials and some rags, and I headed out and took care of it,” he said.

While Sutter was cleaning it, “there was a lot of emotion involved.”

“It hit a soft spot. If I feel this emotional about something like that, imagine somebody who actually received a Purple Heart and was wounded overseas, how they might perceive that and how they might feel,” said Sutter.

Coin ceremony

Nancy Schoen is the director of guest services and valet services at the Sanford USD Medical Center. She’s always had a love and respect for veterans, and was instrumental in opening the Sanford Veterans Club.

She caught wind of Sutter’s good deed, and decided he needed to be rewarded for it.

“He’s somebody that goes above and beyond. Tony was driving home one day, saw that someone defaced a Purple Heart sign, so he took it upon himself. He came back here (Sanford), because he works in maintenance, got the ladder and paint remover, and drove all the way back to the sign,” she said.

“He didn’t ask for any recognition, and didn’t even know anybody knew that he had done it. But, he just knew that it was the right thing to do,” she added.

But, Schoen didn’t want the good deed to go unrewarded.

So, fast forward to 4 p.m. on Monday. Sutter headed to the veterans club. As Schoen and others piled in one after the other, he got a sneaking suspicion the meeting was about him.

Paul Hanson, president of the Sioux Falls region of Sanford Health, surprised Sutter with a veteran coin ceremony.

Sutter, borderline speechless, said working for an employer that supports veterans the way Sanford Health does, “is mind blowing.”

“It kind of blew me away. I’m very, very grateful. I couldn’t have picked a better place.”

Ceremony within a ceremony

Schoen organized Sutter’s surprise ceremony, but what she didn’t know was she has also organized her own.

Once Sutter’s ceremony wrapped up, even more Sanford employees piled in to the veterans club. The focus of the meeting quickly shifted to Schoen.

For her work supporting veterans, and organizing Sutter’s surprise ceremony, she was awarded the Sanford Health veteran advocate employee of the year award.

“I got totally surprised,” she said, laughing.

The award was surprising and great, but it’s not why Schoen does the work she does.

“I’ve always had the utmost most respect for them. I feel very honored to be able to be a little part of this, by doing something like this too.”

When it comes to supporting veterans, Schoen echoed Sutter’s sentiment, saying Sanford’s commitment is second to none.

“I think that starts from our leadership on down,” she said. “They know how important it is. And, I think that’s felt. I think the military and veteran employees throughout the whole Sanford system can feel that and know that.”

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Community, Health Care Heroes, Veterans

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