Jeff City Guardsman surprised by medal on 22nd wedding anniversary

Capt. Timothy Grenke pins the Armyâ??s Meritorious Service Medal to the uniform of 1st Sgt. James A. Kempker, of Jefferson City, Saturday at Jefferson Barracks. In addition to receiving the medal, it was also Kemperâ??s 22nd wedding anniversary.

Bill Phelan

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. â?? A Missouri National Guardsman, 1st Sgt. James A. Kempker, got an unexpected gift on Saturday; his 22nd wedding anniversary.

While standing at final formation with the 1035th Support Maintenance Company at Jefferson Barracks, Kempker was surprised by his former commanding officer, who presented him with the Armyâ??s Meritorious Service Medal.

Kempker, of Jefferson City, was recognized for his outstanding service to B Company of the Guardâ??s 311th Brigade Support Battalion, based in Fulton, his previous unit. The company commander, Capt. Timothy A. Grenke, was on hand to personally decorate Kempker.

â??1st Sgt. Kempker is a phenomenal noncommissioned officer,â?? Grenke said. â??He took great care of our unit and he pointed me in the right direction on more than one occasion. He has taken on extra duties without complaining and definitely knows how to take care of his soldiers. He has always supported me, so Iâ??m here to support him.â??

With his wife, Angie, and his son, Aaron, present, Kempker was decorated by Grenke, whose presence nearly gave the surprise away.

â??I knew something fishy was going on when I saw Capt. Grenke here,â?? Kempker said smiling.

After the ceremony Angie Kemper pointed out that it was her and Jamesâ?? 22nd wedding anniversary.

â??What an anniversary gift, huh,â?? she said with pride.

A 27-year Guard veteran, Kempker now serves as first sergeant for the 1035th, a vehicle maintenance unit, headquartered at Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County. Following in his fatherâ??s example, Aaron Kempker also serves in the unit.

The 1035th Support Maintenance Company is commanded by 1st Lt. Dorothy Mulder and is a subordinate unit of the 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.