Sears Receives Freedom Award for Support to Reserves
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2005 Defense officials have lauded Sears, Roebuck and Co. for the many benefits they provide employees who have been called to the colors.
The war on terror demands much of reserve-component military personnel. The sacrifices they and their families make are legion. But increasingly, the war is demanding much of reserve-component servicemembers' civilian employers. The National Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve presented companies that go the extra mile for reservists with the Freedom Award during a ceremony here Oct. 15.
The Freedom Awards are the highest given by the organization. A Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the company or a family member must nominate companies for the award.
Based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Sears extends throughout North America. A Sears spokeswoman said that at one more than 2,000 Sears employees were deployed as part of the war on terrorism. "The number fluctuates from day to day and week to week," Lisa Gibbons said. "But this is nothing new for us. We've been supporting Sears employees in the military since 1916."
The company has guaranteed the jobs of Sears employees called to duty since that date -- well before the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act mandated such consideration in 1940.
The company has also pioneered programs to hire spouses of active-duty personnel and provided a grant of nearly $2.5 million to the National Military Family Association for "Operation Purple" summer camps, a series of camps for children of deployed military personnel. This year, more than 2,500 children of deployed servicemembers participated in the camps.
Sears makes up the difference between military pay and what employees earn from the company. While deployed, eligible employees also can continue participating in Sears' life insurance, medical and dental programs for up to 60 months of military duty.
Deployed employees also receive annual merit-pay increases, incentive pay and stock options.