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Gates Hails Employers for Support of Guardsmen, Reservists

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised a select group of civilian employers today for their exemplary support of employees in the National Guard and reserves.

During a meeting in his Pentagon office today, Gates thanked the employers for “the leadership that you all show and the sympathy and help that you provide to our men and women in the Guard and Reserve.”

“The fact that you have won this award really is a measure of your service,” he added.

Fifteen businesses and organizations were selected to receive the 2007 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which recognizes exemplary support for employees in the reserve components.

This year’s Freedom Award recipients are: Augustine and Sons Inc., Rose Hill, Iowa; Con-way Inc., San Mateo, Calif.; Creative Healthcare Solutions, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Custom Hardware Engineering Inc., Fenton, Mo.; Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Tulsa, Okla.; Gantt Excavating and Contracting Inc., Martinsburg, W.Va.; General Motors Corp., Detroit; New Hampshire State Police, Concord, N.H.; Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; Sierra Pacific Resources, Las Vegas; Sodexho USA, Gaithersburg, Md.; the state of Tennessee; Turbocam International, Dover, N.H.; Ultra Machining Co., Monticello, Minn; and Wilmington VA Medical Center, Wilmington, Del.

The honorees will receive their Freedom Awards tonight during the annual banquet held in Washington, D.C.

Officials from the award-winning firms and organizations met with Vice President Richard B. Cheney earlier today.

President Bush, who declared Sept. 9-15 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week for 2007, will greet the group at the White House tomorrow.

“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. Employer support, Bush stated, is critical to reserve-component servicemembers’ ability to serve.

Frederick D. Gantt, president of Gantt’s Excavating and Contracting Inc., said his firm supplied four all-terrain vehicles used by company employees deployed for military duty in Iraq. Gantt’s business performs commercial and residential earth work for septic systems, utilities and roads.

“We feel that we need to do it to help the country out,” Gantt said of his company’s contributions on behalf of its employees in the Guard and reserves. “If you don’t stick together, you’ll fall one at a time.”

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, manages the award process.

ESGR assists Guard and reserve members and their employers understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act.

This year’s Freedom Award recipients are “a fantastic group,” said L. Gordon Sumner Jr., a retired Army lieutenant colonel appointed as the committee’s new executive director March 29.

The firms being honored “are going above and beyond in their support for our Guard (members) and reservists,” Sumner said. The fifteen honorees were selected from a list of nearly 1,200 nominations, he noted.

Dan Augustine, co-owner of Augustine and Sons Inc., a 150-year-old family-owned farm in Rose Hill, Iowa, saluted company employee Iowa National Guard 1st Sgt. Matthew T. Strasser, who nominated his firm for the award and is now deployed to Afghanistan. The company has assisted Strasser’s wife, Jessica, by performing needed household chores and by taking the family’s two young sons out on weekend farm outings.

“It makes us feel good that he appreciates what we have done,” Augustine said of Strasser. “It’s a small thing that we can do to help his family while he is deployed.”

“The award, from our viewpoint, is really more about the men and women who are giving of themselves for the country,” said Norman Stalsberg, president of Creative Healthcare Solutions Inc., a marketing provider to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates
L. Gordon Sumner Jr.

Related Sites:
2007 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Awards
National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve



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