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Employers Honored for Stellar Support of Military Employees

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2006 – The Department of Defense yesterday evening honored 15 top employers with the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for their incredible support of activated military employees.

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Fifteen employers were honored with the 2006 Secretary of Defense Freedom Support Award in Washington on Sept. 21. The recognition was for their stellar support of their reserve-component employees. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“You changed your business practices, you altered your schedules, you adjusted your workflow, (and) you adjusted your work force,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told the employers gathered for a dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

“You donated your time and resources to aid those in your organizations who signed up and donned the uniform of the United States to answer their call of duty,” he said. “Your sacrifice earns you a passage into our band of brothers and sisters who are committed to ensuring the United States of America will forever be the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.”

The time and resources Cody spoke of included employers providing the difference between civilian and military pay and maintaining benefits for activated reserve-component servicemembers. Some employers also offered family support and assistance in deployment planning as well as morale-boosting care packages and the means to communicate with family and friends back home.

The employers don’t feel they’re making a sacrificing, though. They said they do it because it’s the right thing to do.

“It pales in comparison to the personal sacrifice they’re making. I wish we could do more,” Jovita Thomas-Williams, vice president of labor relations with the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, said. “This was really a no-brainer for us.”

The MGM Mirage continues full pay and benefits for activated reserve-component employees. This includes those employees whose primary income is tip-based. They receive their tip income as previously reported, Thomas-Williams said.

“If this is what we can do to help them, we are fully prepared to do that and more,” she added.

Starbucks always strives to do the right thing for its partners, as it calls its employees, Jim Alling, president of Starbucks Coffee in the United States, said.

The company hit a homerun as far as Matt Parkinson is concerned. The Army Reserve major nominated his employer for the Freedom Support Award after serving about 15 months in Iraq. During that time, Parkinson was kept in the loop and felt the support of the Starbucks family, he said.

“A vice president sat me down and wanted me know that anything that I needed, both personal or in my business life, they were there to take care of me,” Parkinson, a project manager in Starbucks’ information technology department, said.

The company not only made up the difference between his civilian and military pay and continued his benefits, they had a few surprises in store for him, as well.

“They kept me regularly posted about what was going on with the company,” he said. “Much to my surprise, I received huge shipments of coffee and mugs and aprons and coffeemakers and all kinds of thing to distribute to the troops over there.”

David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness presented awards to employers representing large and small as well as public and private businesses. Those receiving awards were:

• AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Fargo, N.D.;

• Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, Minn.;

• Baptist Health, Little Rock, Ark.;

• BNSF Railway Company, Fort Worth, Texas;

• Cardi’s Furniture Superstores, Swansea, Mass.;

• Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston;

• Computer Sciences Corporation, El Segundo, Calif.;

• DuPont, Wilmington, Del.;

• Fred Fletemeyer Company, Colorado Springs, Colo.;

• MGM Mirage, Las Vegas;

• Skyline Membership Corporation, West Jefferson, N.C.;

• South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks; Pierre, S.D.;

• Starbucks Corporation; Seattle;

• State of Vermont, Montpelier, Vt.; and

• Sun Valley General Improvement District, Sun Valley, Nev.

The annual award, managed by the National Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, is given to employers who go above and beyond what federal law requires employers do for National Guardsmen and reservists.

The main function of ESGR, a Defense Department agency, is to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve-component personnel and their civilian employers.

Though Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld couldn’t be there in person, he addressed the crowd through a taped message. His message was one of thanks and appreciation for the employers’ support for the men and women in the Guard and reserves.

“I thank you all,” Rumsfeld said. “When your country asked you to help, you responded -- heart mind and soul -- to support those serving so that we may live safe and free.”

Country music singer Michael Peterson concluded the evening with a performance. “Sometimes a song can say in three-and-a-half minutes what a whole program has a hard time getting through to people,” he said as he launched into a song that told the story of an activated Army reservist.

Earlier in the day, the honored employers were greeted at the Pentagon by Deputy Defense Secretary Gorgon England, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas F. Hall, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Internal Communication and Public Liaison Allison Barber. Today they are scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House.

Contact Author

Biographies:
Gen. Richard A. Cody, USA

Related Sites:
National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves


Click photo for screen-resolution imageAllianz Life Insurance Company of North America CEO Mark Zesbaugh receives the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu (right) and ESGR National Chairman David Janes (left) presented the awards during a ceremony Sept. 21 in Washington. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Reserve Capt. Robert Woods told those gathered in Washington for the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Awards about what his company, Computer Sciences Corporation, did for him when he was activated to serve in Afghanistan. The crowd chuckled when he said he had a job waiting for him when he returned, but that it wasn’t the one he’d left -- his wife had taken that one. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCountry singer Michael Peterson closed the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony, held in Washington on Sept. 21, with a song about an Army Reservist serving in Baghdad. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, after accepting an award on behalf of the commonwealth during the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony, held in Washington on Sept. 21. ESGR National Chairman David Janes (left) looks on. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve honored 15 employers during the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony, held in Washington on Sept. 21. The awards recognize employers who go above and beyond what federal law requires they do for activated reserve-component employees. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAgCountry Farm Credit Services President and CEO Gene Smestad received a 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S. C. Chu (right) and ESGR National Chairman David Janes (left) presented the awards during the annual awards ceremony Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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