WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2014 —
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today recognized 15 private- and public-sector employers from across the country for exceptional support of their employees who serve the nation in the National Guard and reserve.
The 15 organizations are recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award -- the highest recognition that DoD bestows to employers for such support.
Supporting military employees
The 2014 recipients, first announced in July, were chosen from 2,864 nominations received from Guardsmen and reservists for going far beyond what the federal law requires to support their military employees.
“Whether you're in the civilian world, whether you are among the employers that we present with our recognition here this morning, I thank you on behalf of our country,” Hagel told a large audience in the Pentagon’s auditorium.
The secretary also conveyed President Barack Obama’s thanks and best wishes to the honorees.
“The 15 employers we honor today represent the very best in employer support to our Guardsmen and our reservists,” he added.
The secretary said some honorees are large companies like AT&T, which has given its deployed Guardsmen and reservists cell phones and iPads to use to keep in touch with their families.
“AT&T also recently announced that they are doubling their goal to hire 10,000 veterans and their family members, which benefits Guardsmen and reservists because many of them are veterans leaving active duty,” Hagel added.
Large and small organizations honored
Other large-company honorees like Capital One and PNC Bank encourage their civilian employees to support activated Guardsmen and reservists and their families, the secretary said.
“Today we are also honoring small businesses,” he added. “For them, having an employee leave for multiple weeks or a year to serve their country can be a significant burden. Yet these organizations celebrate their Guardsmen and their reservists for their sacrifices.”
Stepping up to provide support
For J.G. Management Systems, a firm with 85 employees, supporting their activated employee meant stepping up the pay for an employee's wife and three children to meet him in Italy during his mid-deployment leave, Hagel said.
“For the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services,” he said, it meant making sure a Guardsman's spouse had the health insurance she needed, and sending Easter baskets to his children.
The 15 honoree employers are diverse in size, focus and responsibilities, the secretary said, but they share with everyone in the Defense Department a commitment to doing everything possible to ensure their people succeed in military and civilian careers.
“No one in the Guard or reserve should ever have to choose between a military or civilian career,” Hagel said.
Maintaining contact with employees
More employers, he added, should follow the example of Zions National Bank, whose president and CEO personally contacts every employee who is called up for active duty.
“He does that to make sure they know of the bank's continued absolute commitment to them and their families,” the secretary said, adding that Zions has a military relations manager who tracks deployed employees and initiates an employment reintegration process three months before the employee comes home.
Military members make good employees
What all of today's honorees recognize, Hagel said, is that Guardsmen and reservists, like all military personnel, have unique qualifications and proven leadership experience, the same qualities that drive American companies to hire more veterans each year, not only because they value service but also because it’s good business.
The companies honored today include Arizona Public Service in Phoenix, Arizona; AT&T in Dallas, Texas; Capital One in McLean, Virginia; CH2M-WG Idaho in Idaho Falls, Idaho; General Mills Inc. in Golden Valley, Minnesota; J.G. Management Systems Inc. in Grand Junction, Colorado; the Los Angeles Fire Department in Los Angeles, California; the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in Concord, New Hampshire; PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Shofner Vision Center in Nashville, Tennessee; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee; Triumph Pharmaceuticals Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri; UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada; and Zions Bank in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“As we salute these 15 companies and organizations,” Hagel said, “we also recognize all the Guardsmen and reservists and their families that they support. Our Guardsmen and reservists are skilled professionals who make an extraordinary contribution to the mission, from Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley to institutions here at home.”
The secretary added, “We appreciate everything you do for our National Guardsmen, our reservists and their families, and I know they appreciate what you do. You make our country stronger, you make our country better.”
During the ceremony that followed, Hagel provided each company representative with a bronze eagle award.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)