VA Completes Cabinet's Push for Employer Support of Guard, Reserve
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 14, 2006 With a stroke of Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson's pen here today, all 15 U.S. Cabinet secretaries have now signed a joint statement in support of the Defense Department's Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve organization.
Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson (right) became the last of the 15 U.S. Cabinet secretaries to sign a joint Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve statement of support. Thomas F. Hall (left), assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, delivered remarks during the April 14 ceremony. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Nicholson became the last Cabinet secretary to sign the document during a ceremony at VA headquarters.
"The Department of Veterans Affairs stands foursquare in support of our Guard and Reserve troops and the ESGR mission," Nicholson said. ESGR has been a very important advocate for the job rights of returning deployed reservists and National Guardsmen, he said.
The Defense Department established ESGR in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component members and their civilian employers.
The joint ESGR statement might be the only document signed by all Cabinet members, said Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
"This is a very historic day, because today we complete the signing of the statement of support by the entire cabinet," Hall said. "I think it is very fitting, and we planned it this way, to have VA as the last signer of this, because it's the bookends. The first signer was DoD, the last is VA."
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve has more than 5,200 volunteers across the country, Hall said. "They ... make sure that when our young men and women answer the call to the colors and come back, they're able to start their education over (and) go right back to their jobs," he said.
Craig W. Duehring, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, presented Nicholson with a plaque reflecting VA's support for reserve components.