BREWER, Maine — Susan Maiden was out on her deck enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon in May when she got the phone call.
It was her son, Andy Chic, calling from half a world away.
Put Dad on the phone, her son had said, a touch of nervousness in his voice. At the time, that sounded strange to his mother.
“I think he didn’t want to hear me overreact over the phone,” Maiden said Wednesday.
Chic, 23, of Hampden, a specialist with the Brewer-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry of the Maine Army National Guard, had been injured. He was part of a convoy mission in Afghanistan that took direct hits from rocket-propelled grenades from insurgents. Shrapnel tore through his mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP. He suffered wounds to his face and neck but was lucky to be alive and in one piece.
His vehicle was carrying satchels of mail and care packages from family members in Maine that ended up absorbing some of the shrapnel and mitigating the injuries to Chic and other soldiers.
After Susan Maiden heard the news, she spent days fretting over when she might see her son again and where. During that time, there was one thing she never worried about: her job.
Maiden, human resources manager for Darling’s Auto, received paid leave to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where Chic was taken to rehab.
“They wanted to book flights and hotels, but I told them I wanted to drive to bring him some stuff,” she said. “So they made sure I had an E-ZPass for tolls. Anytime I wanted to go back, they would have put me on a plane.”
Maiden said that more than the financial support, though, was the empathy she was shown by her bosses and co-workers.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe paid a visit to Darling’s on Wednesday to present an “Above and Beyond” Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a division of the Department of Defense.
“Given the tremendous care and compassion extended for Susan and Andy’s well-being, I can think of no business more deserving of this tremendous recognition than Darling’s,” Snowe said during the brief ceremony at Darling’s corporate offices in Brewer.
Jay Darling, president of the family-owned company that has been in business for more than 100 years in Greater Bangor, accepted the award.
“It’s really the employees that allow for things like this,” he said.
Maiden and her son attended the event as well, although Snowe already had met the soldier. During his rehab at Walter Reed, Chic was invited to tour the senator’s office and the Russell Senate Office Building.
“Every one of my staff members wanted to meet him,” Snowe said Wednesday.
Already a Purple Heart recipient, Chic is back in Maine for good and doing well. His unit, which was recalled to active duty last December and is composed of 152 Mainers, is scheduled to return sometime this fall.
Chic, a political science and history major at the University of Maine before he was deployed, plans to return to school in January. He’ll be a part of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps and envisions returning to his unit.
“He loves the infantry,” Maiden said of her son. “What happened to him has not at all deterred his motivation.”
On Wednesday, he thanked the senator and other guests for their continual support of him and his family.
For Maiden, she has been back to work for a while now, but she said she would always remember the support she received from Darling’s during a difficult time.
“I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “We’ve had employees and family members dealing with cancer and other things. This place always comes together. It’s really like a family.”