America Supports You: ESGR Seeks Freedom Award Nominees
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2007 The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is seeking employers with records of stellar support for military employees.
The group is accepting nominations for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Awards through Jan. 21.
“Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the National Guard and Reserve,” said Beth Sherman, an ESGR spokeswoman. “The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to (these) employees.”
Past recipients of the award have provided full salary, a continuation of benefits, care packages and other forms of help such as home and lawn care for families of employees fulfilling military obligations.
“While all employer support is exemplary, small employers that go above and beyond the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to assist their employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve, really set the bar high (last year),” Sherman said.
USERRA prohibits discrimination against people because of military service.
Augustine and Sons, a family-owned farm in Iowa, is one example of a small business that goes out of its way for its employees, Sherman said.
When one of its employees, 1st Sgt. Matthew Strasser, an Iowa Army National Guardsman, was deployed, the farm lost half its staff. Yet the Augustine family offered its continuing support to the family Strasser left behind.
“They allowed Strasser’s wife and … two sons to live on the farm rent-free,” Sherman said. “The Augustines took the boys fishing, attended their sports games and fixed their dirt bikes.”
Large businesses previously recognized for their exemplary support include Sears and Starbucks. The commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of Tennessee both are past recipients of the public-sector award.
ESGR is encouraging National Guardsmen, reservists and their family members to nominate employers who offer their employees similar support. Nomination forms are available on the committee’s Web site, www.esgr.org.
Last year, 1,119 nominations were received. To date, ESGR has received 268 already this year.
“Given that employer support is so strong, we hope reserve-component members will see fit to nominate their deserving employers,” Sherman said. “This kind of recognition establishes a benchmark for all employers, and we hope this recognition is a small thank you from the Department of Defense.”
Winners selected in three categories will be announced in early spring and will receive their awards during a Sept. 18 award ceremony.
Founded in 1972, the National Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve is a Defense Department agency established to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve-component members and their civilian employers. The organization also is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
Then-Defense Secretary William Perry instituted the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 1996.