Veteran Business Leaders Honor Reserve, Guard
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
NEW YORK, Jul. 1, 2005 The National Guard and Reserve are performing a critical contribution to national defense, so it's critical that their civilian employers stand behind them as they serve, the executive director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve said here June 30.
"There's not an employer out there who doesn't care about our country and understand the importance of the Guard and Reserve," Bob Hollingsworth told members of the Veterans Business Network.
The group, an association of 2,500 veteran business owners, executives and entrepreneurs nationwide, honored the National Guard and Reserve for their service and sacrifice during its meeting at the Union League Club here.
Stephen White, association president, said it's important for the organization to show its support because of the responsibilities being placed on citizen-soldiers and their families.
Reserve-component service no longer means a weekend a month and two weeks each summer for training, Hollingsworth told the group. With the pace of deployments and the role citizen-soldiers are playing in the global war on terror, "the sun never sets on the Reserve and Guard," he said.
"It's only because of our citizen-soldiers that we are able to prosecute the war, be successful, and bring freedom to people who didn't have it and have never had it," said retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam veteran and successful businessman.
Army Maj. Gen. Richard Colt, who retired in June as commander of the 77th Regional Readiness Command, said 18 of his Reserve soldiers from New York and New Jersey have died during the past four years in service of their country. About 1,700 soldiers from the command are currently deployed.
The reserve-component members serving today - soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen alike - "are as worthy of support as any generation of military men and women have ever been," Colt said.
"Everyone from small businesses to major corporations has given our men and women the time off they need to train and deploy," Colt told the group. "I know this has not been easy for many of you, but you have done it and done it proudly. I thank and commend you for your service."
Colt said the support goes beyond giving soldiers time to serve, noting that he gets regular calls from local businesses as well as community members wanting to know what they can do to support the troops.
Some employers, he said, provide supplemental pay, send care packages to deployed troops and their families, and even conduct regular meetings with families of deployed employees.
Yet Sgt. Maj. Nelson Ildefonso from the 77th Regional Readiness Command said some reservists still are reluctant to tell potential employers they serve in the reserve components, for fear they won't be hired. And in some cases, reservists don't tell employers that they're in the military, pulling weekend duty in secret "and hoping they don't get called up," he said.
"But that's not the way it should be. We need to be proud of our service," particularly in light of its heavy responsibility and the burden in places on military families, Ildefonso said.
Preventing situations like this is exactly why ESGR was established in 1972. Its goal is to promote cooperation and understanding between members of the reserve components and their civilian employers.
Committee members help ensure employers understand the role of their citizen-soldier employees in national defense and educate employers and employees alike about their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Hollingsworth acknowledged that reserve-component deployments put a heavy burden on employers, particularly those in small businesses. Yet the vast majority of employers are taking the challenge it imposes in stride and doing whatever they can to support their employees, he said.
"These employers are doing so much," Hollingsworth said. "They're asking, 'What can I do for them?' And in many cases, especially for those employers who have not served in the military themselves, they see this as their chance to give something back."
Rick Carrier, a veteran of World War II and a Veterans Business Network member, said the seriousness of the war on terror demands that employers and the country as a whole support the troops any way they can.
"We are fighting for our lives," said Carrier. "This is not something we can relegate to the back room. These people (terrorists) want to kill us, so we need to stand behind the people who are taking the fight to the enemy so we don't have to fight it here."