United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

Sept. 10, 2010
The Department of Defense has announced the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recipients. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given to employers for their support of their employees who also serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

About ESGR and the Freedom Award

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. ESGR is a Department of Defense agency established in 1972 whose mission is to develop and promote employer support for Guard and Reserve service by advocating relevant initiatives, recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of applicable laws, and resolving conflict between employers and service members. Since 1996, only 130 companies have been presented with the prestigious Freedom Award. For more information, please visit www.FreedomAward.mil.

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Defense Department Honors Guard, Reserve Employers

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2010 – Fifteen U.S. companies nominated by their employees received Defense Department awards for outstanding support to the Guard and Reserve members they employ. Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, keynote speaker for the event, said the civilian employers of the nation’s nearly 1.7 million citizen-servicemembers play a key role in the country’s defense. Story

Bill Bragg Plumbing - San Francisco, Calif.

"Mr. Bragg takes the time and effort to personally thank me on a regular basis for the contribution I make to his company. He continually shows his pride and respect for me and the duties required of Reservists."  More Hide Story
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edwin Floresreyes
Family-owned Bill Bragg Plumbing provides plumbing and heating services in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma Counties, and is a past recipient of the ESGR Above and Beyond Award. The small business consistently offers seamless customer service even when office manager, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edwin Floresreyes, a reservist, is away for military training. Owner Bill Bragg often steps in to fill Floresreyes' shoes and performs his work duties to help alleviate any additional stress and burdens placed on the company's staff. Despite having only five employees, Bill Bragg Plumbing continues to provide full differential pay and health benefits to its only Guard and Reserve member when he is deployed. Floresreyes notes that Mr. Bragg "takes the time and effort to personally thank me on a regular basis for the contribution I make to his company. He continually shows his pride and respect for me and the duties required of Reservists. He likes to tell people about my service. This is just one of the many reasons why I believe he is worthy of the Freedom Award."

Dollar General Corporation - Goodlettsville, Tenn.

"I am delighted to have a small part in recognizing Dollar General's continued support of our troops. The company truly demonstrates its mission of 'Serving Others' by actions and not just words."  More Hide Story
Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Rodger Reed
Dollar General Corp. of Goodlettsville, Tenn., is one of the nation's largest small-box discount retailers. Named a 2010 top "Military Friendly Employer" by G.I. Jobs and a "Military Spouse-Friendly Employer" by Military.com, Dollar General employs more than 3500 veterans and has more than 100 Guard and Reserve employees. Dollar General is a past recipient of the Above and Beyond Award and ESGR Pro Patria Award. The company consistently demonstrates its commitment by providing supplemental pay, a continuation of benefits and family support for employees fulfilling their military commitments. When Guard and Reserve employees are on active duty, Dollar General sends care packages, letters and much needed supplies. Every year, Dollar General prepares a Veterans Day program to acknowledge and thank those who have served and those who are serving our country. "I am delighted to have a small part in recognizing Dollar General's continued support of our troops. The company truly demonstrates its mission of 'serving others' by actions and not just words," said Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Rodger Reed, who nominated the company.

East Carolina University - Greenville, N.C.

"Despite the distance and the danger, based on my experience of support from ECU, I am confident that my university family would take care of my wife and my son, should something happen to me."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Schenarts
East Carolina University, the third largest university in North Carolina, was named a "2010 Military-Friendly School" by G.I. Jobs Magazine. ECU supports service members through services, donations, scholarships, outreach, military presence at the university, and collaboration with military bases. ECU's Training for Optimal Performance program provides services to Marines returning from deployment, particularly those who need help adjusting to disabilities or post traumatic stress disorder. Currently deployed as a trauma surgeon and deputy commander of the 344th Combat Support Hospital on the Afghan-Pakistan border, ECU's nominator, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Schenarts, who serves in the reserves, noted, "Despite the distance and the danger, based on my experience of support from ECU, I am confident that my university family would take care of my wife and my son, should something happen to me. This confidence allows me to stay focused on my mission here. The motto of East Carolina University is "servire" meaning to serve and the support I have received from the university while serving my country clearly demonstrates the institution lives by this motto."

Food Lion - Salisbury, N.C.

"Food Lion is rich with caring associates who support activated reservists and colleagues' loved ones, both the individuals who are called overseas and the families that remain behind."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Steven Boos
Food Lion, based in Salisbury, N.C., operates more than 1,300 supermarkets under the names Food Lion, Bloom, Harveys and Reid's. A consistent supporter of the Guard and Reserve, Food Lion's leaders and associates work to send care packages, provide home repair, attend children's events, send flowers, and provide lawn care services for deployed co-workers' families. The company also allows employees who are spouses of deployed service members to transfer to other stores in order to be closer to family during deployments. Food Lion's Veterans and Military Personnel Business Resource Group develops and implements strategies to assist associates who are on reserve or active duty. Nearly 230 Food Lion associates wear a uniform for their country. "A company is only as strong as the people who keep it operating," said nominator U.S. Army Master Sgt. Steven Boos, who is a reservist. "Food Lion is rich with caring associates who support activated reservists and colleagues' loved ones, both the individuals who are called overseas and the families that remain behind."

Franklin's Printing - Murfreesboro, Tenn.

"On top of the obvious sacrifices, what made me nominate Franklin's Printing was the fact that I am never made to feel bad about the time I spend performing my military duty."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Sgt. Torben Cederstrand
Franklin's Printing is an independently owned and operated full-service printing, business and marketing materials company located in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Though a small business with only 13 employees, Franklin's Printing provides additional support by donating time and services, including printing brochures for local military groups, personnel and their families at no cost. The Defense Department has previously recognized Franklin's Printing with the ESGR Pro Patria Award and the Above and Beyond Award for its exceptional support of Guard and Reserve employees. "On top of the obvious sacrifices, what made me nominate Franklin's Printing was the fact that I am never made to feel bad about the time I spend performing my military duty. I am the only person who would ever think that this was an incredible strain on the business," said U.S. Army Sgt. Torben Cederstrand, the reservist who nominated the company. "I never had any questions asked about the demands of my military service. It definitely made me realize how much difference a supportive employer makes."

Hawaii State Government - Honolulu, Hawaii

"It's reassuring to know that when I'm away, my co-workers stay in touch with my family and they are always there to help out any way they can."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Maj. K. Mark Takai
The State of Hawaii provides service credit toward retirement for the time their Guard and Reserve employees are activated and offers preferential hiring for members of the Guard and Reserve. Hiring preference is also given to spouses of Guard and Reserve members with service-connected disabilities or who died while on active duty. The State holds a farewell ceremony at Aloha Stadium when the 29th Brigade is deployed and a welcome home parade on Waikiki Beach when they return. Hawaii is the only state that recognizes its fallen war heroes by awarding them the state Medal of Honor. This honor is given to service members who were born, raised, educated in Hawaii and then served in a unit from the state of Hawaii prior to paying the ultimate sacrifice. Members of the state stay in close contact with families of their deployed employees and make it a point to include them in special events. "It's reassuring to know that when I'm away, my co-workers stay in touch with my family and they are always there to help out any way they can," said U.S. Army Maj. K. Mark Takai, the nominator and a Hawaii Army National Guardsman.

Intuit Inc. - Mountain View, Calif.

"Intuit has provided a significant counterweight to any financial worry we could have assumed and they offer personal support for Tim, for me and our six-year-old son. I can't imagine a company more deserving of recognition for dedication to their military employees and their families."  More Hide Story
Cheryl Graczewski, wife of U.S. Navy Lt. Tim Graczewski
Intuit Inc., founded in 1983, provides business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, banks and credit unions, consumers and accounting professionals. Intuit helps simplify the lives of its Guard and Reserve employees when they are called to duty by using its management system to provide support for them. Military employees receive full pay and company bonuses during deployments, are eligible to participate in the Employee Assistance Program which provides confidential counseling, and are assigned an Intuit Military Network Leader to assist throughout deployment. Cheryl Graczewski, wife of U.S. Navy Lt. Tim Graczewski, a Reserve officer deployed to Afghanistan, says, "While being the wife of a deployed service member allows me the opportunity to take pride in my husband's work, it also brings challenges and worries. Intuit has provided a significant counterweight to any financial worry we could have assumed and they offer personal support for Tim, for me and our six-year-old son. I can't imagine a company more deserving of recognition for dedication to their military employees and their families."

City of Irvine Police Department - Irvine, Calif.

"In addition to continuing my pay and benefits, representatives of the City and the Department sent flowers to my wife and checked in with me and my family on a regular basis to see how we were doing."  More Hide Story
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Thomas Allan
The City of Irvine Police Department in California has had a number of employees deployed for active duty military service, including soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pentagon, as well as an airman who helped provide humanitarian assistance in Haiti. Both the city and the police department have demonstrated support for their reservists in numerous ways including care packages, City Council presentations to recognize and honor servicemembers, and remembrance ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In 2007, the City of Irvine also adopted a Marine Corps battalion from Camp Pendleton, Calif. The City of Irvine Police Department has earned numerous ESGR awards including several Patriot Awards, the Seven Seals Awards and the Pro Patria Award. Irvine Police Lt. Thomas Allan, a Marine Corps lieutenant who serves in the reserves, said, "In addition to continuing my pay and benefits, representatives of the City and the Department sent flowers to my wife and checked in with me and my family on a regular basis to see how we were doing."

Legacy Sports International - Reno, Nev.

"Legacy Sports International all but rescued me, and without their help my life would have been much different."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Sgt. Boone Cutler
Legacy Sports International is a Reno, Nev.-based importer of firearms and shooting accessories. Three of the company's 16 employees are veterans and the company's owner is a retired member of the U.S. Army Shooting Team. U.S. Army Sgt. Boone Cutler, the reservist employee who nominated the company, was injured while serving in Iraq before joining the company's ranks. He hired while still recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and given full pay throughout the rehabilitation process. Legacy Sports International also covered the expense to relocate the nominator's wife and their three children to Reno. For many years, the company has helped military support organizations with contributions and fundraising activities. This year, the company produced collectible engraved rifles which were donated to the Wounded Warrior program for use in fundraising efforts. "Legacy Sports International all but rescued me, and without their help my life would have been much different," said Cutler "Gene Lumsden's kindness and all the support from my fellow employees display the best of America."

Logistics Health Inc. - La Crosse, Wis.

"Logistics Health not only cares for members of the Guard and Reserve, but also our families, through continuation of full pay and benefits when we are called to active duty."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Cpl. John Mayer
Logistics Health Inc., headquartered in La Crosse, Wis., provides healthcare solutions to government and commercial organizations. Company staff members regularly communicate with servicemember employees, sending care packages, letters and e-mails. Logistics Health Inc. not only supports its National Guard and Reserve employees, but also works year-round to support employees' family members during periods of deployment. A past recipient of the ESGR Pro Patria Award, Logistics Health consistently supports the military by sponsoring community events, raising funds for care package drives and military support organizations as well as rallying public support for the troops. "Logistics Health not only cares for members of the Guard and Reserve, but also our families, through continuation of full pay and benefits when we are called to active duty, and through generous support of programs and charitable organizations that benefit our military. I am proud to be a part of an organization that sets an example for employer support of service members," said nominator U.S. Army Cpl. John Mayer, who serves in the Guard.

MERCK and Company Inc. - Whitehouse Station, N.J.

"I never had to worry about my family being affected by pay or health benefits while I was deployed. I missed my wife and children tremendously, but I knew they were in good hands while I was cleaning up the oil in the Gulf."  More Hide Story
U.S. Coast Guard Reserve commander Craig Henzel
Merck operates in more than 140 countries producing medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal products. With more than 10,000 veteran and Guard and Reserve employees, Merck provides differential pay, and continuing health benefits for family members. Merck established the Veterans Leadership Network, an employee resource group that assists with recruiting candidates with military experience to help newly-hired or returning veterans acclimate to corporate life. Merck participates in career fairs across the country and places particular emphasis on recruiting candidates with service-related disabilities. Craig Henzel, Senior Finance Director at Merck and a U.S. Coast Guard Reserve commander, served in the Gulf as the commander of the Offshore Oil Skimming Operation. Henzel said, "Merck's policies are a true differentiating factor when Reservists look at Merck as a potential employer. I never had to worry about my family being affected by pay or health benefits while I was deployed. I missed my wife and children tremendously, but I knew they were in good hands while I was cleaning up the oil in the Gulf."

Michigan Department of State Police - Sterling Heights, Mich.

"Without the financial and emotional support Michigan State Police provided both my family and me, I would not have been able to re-enlist to serve my country following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."  More Hide Story
U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen Nowicki
With more than 160 Guard and Reserve employees, Michigan State Police conducts departure ceremonies for each deployed employee and maintains constant contact with the service member throughout deployment. Upon return, each Guard and Reserve member is guided through the reintegration process by a member of the human resources division, and offered counseling and information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Michigan Department of State Police was previously recognized for support of Guard and Reserve members with the ESGR Pro Patria Award. "After I was mobilized, it was comforting to know that the Michigan State Police would take care of my family, especially as I headed off to an uncertain future," said nominator U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen Nowicki, a reservist. "Because the Michigan State Police has such an extensive program in place to assist Guard and Reserve employees and their families, this was one less worry on my shoulders. Without the financial and emotional support Michigan State Police provided both my family and me, I would not have been able to re-enlist to serve my country following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

Newmont Mining Corporation - Denver, Colo.

"Newmont has always supported my fellow soldiers and me in every possible way, one hundred percent. Even though Newmont is a very large company, you are never just an employee number."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Curt Prokasky
Newmont Mining Company is among the nation's largest gold producers and is the single largest employer in the rural areas of Nevada including Winnemucca, Elko, Carlin and Battle Mountain. Deployed military employees of Newmont Mining Company receive weekly emails from their team, and phone calls from senior leadership on a routine basis. Newmont pays for newspaper and magazine subscriptions to be sent to deployed service members so they continue to feel a part of their community and in touch with what is happening at home. During a company picnic, Newmont recorded a video of encouraging messages from family members, co-workers and friends. From the footage, Newmont produced and sent a personal greeting DVD to every deployed soldier. "Newmont has always supported my fellow soldiers and me in every possible way, one hundred percent. Even though Newmont is a very large company, you are never just an employee number. We are treated with respect and know that the company stands behind us and supports us every step of the way," said nominator U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Curt Prokasky who serves in the National Guard.

Southern Company - Atlanta, Ga.

"As someone who has served in the military, I am proud to work for a company whose employees genuinely care about the men and women who serve our nation."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jerome Richard
Southern Company, based in Atlanta, Ga., is one of the Southeast's largest producers of electricity, serving more than 4.4 million customers. Southern Company developed an active affinity group, "Military Veterans in Power," to assist the company with recruitment, integration and retention of military veterans. Members of the Southern Company family, including the chief executive officer, his wife, managers, and employees correspond with deployed service members and the company also conducted the "Write a Letter of Thanks" campaign to support employees deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The company-wide "Support Our Troops" project has sent more than 500 pounds of personal care items to deployed soldiers. After returning from deployment, employees were honored at a dinner hosted by Southern Company's CEO. U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jerome Richard, a reservist who nominated the company, noted that "as someone who has served in the military, I am proud to work for a company whose employees genuinely care about the men and women who serve our nation. Whether they are close co-workers, family or complete strangers, the efforts of our employees to honor and support our service men and women are unprecedented."

Yerecic Label - New Kensington, Pa.

"Yerecic Label associates share the pride. They gave from their hearts to fill care packages sent to our deployed associates."  More Hide Story
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Hurst
Yerecic Label, located in New Kensington, Pa., manufactures on-pack labeling. Demonstrating a strong commitment to the military, the company has provided full pay and benefits for deployed employee/servicemembers for more than 20 years. Yerecic Label runs a military support group that embraces the deployed employees, sending care packages and maintaining close contact with their families. Arthur Yerecic, company president, gives families of deployed employees his personal phone number. Labels & Labeling Magazine recognized Yerecic Label for its strong support of the Guard and Reserve. "Receiving the Freedom Award is a testament to Art Yerecic Sr. and his unwavering support of the military; presently Art Yerecic honors his father's vision through continued support of the Guard and Reserve," said Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Hurst, who served in the Reserve. "Yerecic Label associates share the pride. They gave from their hearts to fill care packages sent to our deployed associates. As the soldier who nominated Yerecic Label, I am proud to know that I have the pleasure of working with people who care about their fellow associates and want to make a difference."