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May 28, 2019 Article 4 min read
What did fifth-generation military service member Cody Renwick do after returning from deployment? Nominate the PMers who supported him for the Department of Defense’s Patriot Award. As one PMer put it: “After that experience, he thought about his co-workers? It’s astonishing.”
Portrait of Cody
Photo of Cody with runway behind him
Cody with Cubs World Series trophy
Cody with Grandfather
Cody at White Sox game on the field

To say that military service runs in Cody Renwick’s blood is an understatement. He’s not only a fifth-generation service member, but his family can trace their participation in the Armed Forces back to the American Revolution. However, if you ask him why he joined, it’s not out of obligation — instead, it was a combination of timing and reverence for those that went before him and their legacies.

“The most influential people in my life have been members of the military,” Cody explains. “Many of my relatives, mentors, and friends have served in the Armed Forces. Their service doesn’t define them, but it’s a big part of who they are, and I’ve always admired and respected that.

“I didn’t enlist after high school because it wasn’t the right choice at the time. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself in a way that better fit where I was in my life and the commitment it required. So, at 27 years old, I chose to enlist in the Air National Guard.”

That put Cody in a very select group of people. Less than 1 percent of the American population serves in the United States Armed Forces.

Little did he know, less than a year and a half into being with the firm, he would receive orders for his first deployment.

“I read somewhere that service to one's country is something that few do, but many benefit from,” he continues. “I’m proud to be able to wear the uniform of this great country and volunteer to stand up with others for the greater good; it truly is an honor."

At the time Cody joined Plante Moran, his Air National Guard responsibilities consisted of the traditional one weekend a month and two weeks of training a year. However, less than a year and a half into joining the firm, he received orders to deploy to Afghanistan.

Cody is the first service member ever to deploy with the military while working at the firm. While the experience might have been new — it required many conversations, navigating Cody’s schedule (pre-deployment training and helping to care for an ailing parent), and shifting of work responsibilities — everyone who knew Cody was more than happy to play their part.

“Most people don’t know that about a third of the military force overseas is guard and reserve service members,” Cody says. “All of those people put so much on hold — their civilian lives, relationships, careers, family, and more — to supplement and support these missions. I’m fortunate to work with a lot of incredibly selfless people at the firm who continued to support me before, during, and after my deployment.”

Due to the tremendous gratitude he felt, Cody nominated nine PMers for the Department of Defense’s Patriot Award, which reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors and their service to the armed forces.

These staff rallied to support Cody in a variety of ways, from covering his responsibilities and taking on extra work while he was away to sending care packages and helping him to file his taxes when he returned home. All of this had a massive impact on him and meant the world to Cody.

“There are no words that could ever express what some people at the firm did to support me,” he says. “When you’re on duty, you come back to hang up your gear and put your equipment away after a 14-hour shift; if you’re lucky like I was, there’s a care package from home waiting for you. Knowing that what I was doing meant something to people on the other side of the world was everything.”

Although the staff Cody nominated have various roles at the firm, they have one thing in common: the belief that they truly didn’t deserve any recognition.

“I was in disbelief when I found out he nominated me,” says Elaine Corriero, an administrative team member in Chicago. “I don’t deserve an award; he does. I sat at my desk while he did something few people will ever do. He put his life on the line to protect our country. After that experience, he thought about his co-workers? It’s astonishing. Supporting him was my honor and my privilege.”

Transitioning home isn’t always a smooth process for many service members. They need time to be with their families and re-invest in personal relationships. Re-acclimating to civilian life takes as much, or sometimes more, support than being away. So while some might assume you’re ready to dive back into your usual workload, often, that’s not the case.

Cody proudly served our country while many of us went through the daily routine of our lives.

“We talk a lot about work-life balance at the firm and, when I returned home, my balance completely tilted toward my personal life,” Cody explains. “However, everyone accepted that without frustration or judgment. They made sure that I could be where I needed to be.”

It’s one thing to offer our policies on paper, but it’s another thing to see how we live that in our actions and treatment of our staff. Cody proudly supported our country while many of us went through the daily routine of our lives. These nine staff members whom Cody nominated understood that their assistance, support, and reaching out was meaningful to Cody — and they were happy to do it without expecting recognition.

Perhaps Internal Accounting Staff Member Joey Hicks said it best: “What we did was the least we could do. Cody had bigger things to worry about, so this was something we could handle in his absence. Sometimes you don’t know how much you can impact someone’s life until you try.”

Cody nominated, and the DOD/ESGR awarded the Patriot Award to, Joey Hicks, Karen Allen, Bill Labadie, Bonnie Kozikowski, Dan Trotta, Melanie Ceo, Kathy Downey, Jessica Otte, Elaine Corriero, Teri Herzog, Dorinda Berkley, Mary Milawski, and Tom Kinder.