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Sears Supports Deployed Troops, Families

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2004 – Sears, Roebuck and Co. is proving to be a friend of military families -- from making up lost pay for its employees called to active duty in the National Guard and reserve, to donating $2 million to the National Military Family Association for military family programs.

The Chicago-based retailer announced in September that it is extending its military pay differential and benefits coverage to five years. This is the second extension this year. In January, Sears extended its military pay differential to three years, from 30 months.

The announcement, which affects about 200 full-time Sears employees, also means they can continue participating in the company's life insurance, medical and dental programs, if they choose.

By law, companies are required to provide deployed employees access to 18 months of continued medical coverage at the employees' expense. But Sears' policy, which provides these benefits up to five years, goes far beyond the law's requirements.

Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said the policy isn't new for Sears, which he said has extended the pay differential many times in the past for its employees, including those who served on military duty in Operation Desert Storm and, more recently, in Croatia.

In fact, he said, Sears always has supported its employees' military service, and store records show the retailer helped make up lost pay for its employees who served during World War I.

"Sears regards service to our country as one of the greatest sacrifices our young men and women can make," Brathwaite said. "We are happy to do our part to lessen the burden they bear at this time."

The retailer has demonstrated its support for the military in a variety of other ways, including a $2 million donation made earlier this year to the National Military Family Association. The donation, the largest in the association's history, is helping develop and enhance programs that address challenges faced by military families.

Part of the funding went to Operation Purple, a summer camp program held this summer for children of deployed servicemembers.

Sears and the National Military Family Association also co-published a book, "A Tribute to Military Families: Letters of Thanks from Our Nation's Children." The book is designed to increase awareness about the importance of military families and is used as a fundraiser for the association's programs.

Sears also partners with the Army and 12 other companies in the Army Spouse Employment Partnership, to help military spouses find jobs nationwide.

The company participates in the Partnership for Youth Success program, which helps servicemembers leaving the military find work and a military exchange program in which active-duty servicemembers with logistics expertise work for the company for a year.

Sears' support for deployed servicemembers and their families earned the company the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences' 21st Century Community Champion Award in July.

In presenting the award, association president Virginia Vincenti said Sears helps "support the families of these men and women, and consequently, support the communities in which they live."

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