Food Management Company to Receive Top Employer Support Award
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2007 Army Staff Sgt. Lance Vaughan wasn’t surprised when his company, Sodexho USA, stood behind him when he was called to active duty in the Florida National Guard shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to protect ports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But when the company continued to show solid support for him and his military service during two subsequent deployments, Vaughan knew his employer had gone above and beyond what a typical employer might do.
Thanks to his nomination, Sodexho USA, with headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., will receive a 2007 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award next week. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition the U.S. government gives to employers for outstanding support of employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves.
Sodexho USA is a leading provider of food and facilities management in the United States and Canada.
Vaughan, who served as kitchen manager at the Leesburg Regional Hospital in Florida, said his Sodexho USA managers went out of their way to let him know he wasn’t a burden to the company when he was activated after Sept. 11. Throughout the call-up, he said, they kept him abreast of happenings within the company and assured him he’d have the same position available when he returned.
When Vaughn was called to active duty again between August and October 2004 to support recovery efforts following hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jean, which devastated southern Florida, Sodexho again showed its support.
His employer called his wife regularly to check on the family and see if they needed help. To ensure the deployment wasn’t a financial burden, the company made up the difference between his military and civilian pay and helped with the family’s bills.
Sodexho’s support was again put to the test in July 2005, when Vaughan was deployed to Baghdad for an 18-month tour. Company employees continued to check on Vaughan’s wife while he was away, sent care packages to him and his family the entire time he was deployed, and continued paying differential pay until he returned home.
Even after he left the company to start up his own catering business, Sodexho continued to support him. The company plans to pay for Vaughan’s trip to Washington and related expenses next week so he can attend the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony.
Vaughan praised his company for showing that supporting the military is a lot more than a bumper-sticker slogan.
“I nominated Sodexho USA because they are a company that cares about their employees and stands behind the armed services and the men and women who are fighting for the USA,” he said. “They made me proud to be an American and proud to work for a company like Sodexho.”
Vaughan isn’t alone in recognizing his company’s support. He was among 38 employees who nominated Sodexho USA for the award.
Earlier this summer, the Maryland Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented Sodexho USA the Pro Patria Award for its support for its reserve and Guard employees. That award put the company in the running as Maryland’s nominee for the national Freedom Award.
“It is an honor for Sodexho to receive the prestigious award,” said Peri Bridger, senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “The greater honor, however, is to employ brave men and women who serve in our United States armed services. We know that without their dedication to our country, life as we know it would be much different.”
Sodexho USA will be among 15 employers to receive the Freedom Award during a formal Sept. 12 ceremony here.
President Bush declared Sept. 9-15 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week for 2007.
“During National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week, we recognize the vital contributions of the brave men and women who serve our great nation, and we pay tribute to the employers who support them,” Bush said in a proclamation.
The courageous men and women in the reserve components deployed overseas “are fighting a new and unprecedented war, having answered the call to defend our freedom and way of life,” Bush stated.
Bush said the commitment of employers is critical to reserve-component servicemembers’ ability to serve.
“These employers have provided exceptional support to the men and women serving in our National Guard and Reserve and now, more than ever, we appreciate and thank them for doing much more for these employees than the law requires,” agreed L. Gordon Sumner Jr., executive director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.