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Guardsman Lauds Employer for Military Support

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2009 – The past five years have been “the most exciting, dynamic and rewarding” of Brad Sams’ professional career, not because of his success as an attorney, but because of the military opportunities his employer has enabled him to pursue, the Air National Guard major said.

“They create a culture that celebrates my involvement and service to this nation, its ideals, its dreams for a better world,” Sams said of his employer, the Marks, O’Neil, O’Brien and Courtney law firm in Wilmington, Del.

The firm is recognized as one of the nation’s most supportive employers of National Guard and Reserve troops, and was recently announced as one of this year’s 15 recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The Freedom Award is the government’s highest honor given to employers for outstanding support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Sams was born in Kentucky but spent his childhood in Ontario, Canada, with dreams of serving in the U.S. military, he said. He vacationed in Kentucky and Cincinnati every year as a youth and decided to move to the area permanently when he was 20 to attend Ohio State University, he added. He also enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard and later was commissioned in Delaware’s Air National Guard.

“Ever since I was a small child, vacationing every year in the Cincinnati/Kentucky area, where all my extended family lives, I wanted to join the U.S. military in some capacity and serve my nation,” he said.

Between service in the Ohio and Delaware Air National Guards, Sams has accrued more than 20 years of military service. But the most gratifying of those years has come with the support of his current employer, he said.

“The work environment I enjoy every day leaves no doubt regarding the patriotism of the firm’s partners and my colleagues,” he said. “This has been the most exciting, dynamic and rewarding period of my professional career.”

Sams has been called away for military duty an average of five weeks a year since he’s been with the law firm, he said. And although the time away may not seem like much, 25 weeks of absence in five years can be a challenging load for a small, 23-person law firm. While Sams is away for military training and school, it takes time from several other lawyers and paralegals to pick up the slack, he added.

“Leaving for extended periods of time each year has its challenges in terms of coordinating personal and professional responsibilities,” he explained. “The ease with which [the law firm] and all the staff allows me to transition back and forth removes any burdens and provides me with a level of support unparalleled. Even other deployed members are amazed when I share with them.”

Sams and his family receive full health care, dental and life insurance benefits as well as pay and vacation compensation from his law firm while he’s activated. The firm’s support of the military extends beyond Sams and the one other Guardsman it employs. The firm is extremely active in its advocacy of all military members, he said.

About two years ago, Sams got his office involved in Delaware’s “Stockings for Soldiers” program. Since then, his firm has donated financial support and volunteer hours to the program, which provides toiletries and supplies to deployed troops, he said.

“It’s just another amazing piece in [the firm’s] establishment of a culture that is completely devoted to those who serve -- not just to me as an employer, but also all those members unseen overseas -- despite having no personal military connections themselves,” he said.

“I am honored and privileged to serve my country as a uniformed member,” Sams added. “I am equally honored and privileged, indeed blessed, to have stumbled upon an employer who takes service to country as seriously and vigorously as I do.”

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve-component members and their civilian employers, and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment. It is the lead Defense Department organization for this mission.

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Employer Support Freedom Awards
Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

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