By Christen N. McCluney
Hundreds of people came together last week to honor 15 employers from across the nation for the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
The Freedom Award, created by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense agency, publicly recognizes employers who provide exceptional support to their Guard and Reserve employees.
The award, which is in its 15th year, is the highest in a series of employer recognition awards given by the Department of Defense.
Nominations come from a Guard or Reserve member employed by the organization they are nominating or from a family member.
James G. Rebholz, the National Chairman of ESGR said that there were over 2700 nominations for the award this year and that a select committee narrowed it down to 15 candidates. He added the winners this year stood above the other entries based on the types of things they’ve done on a personal human basis for their employers.
“Every year it’s exciting to me,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me that the level of employer support seems to increase and that is what we are seeing here.”
The 2010 recipients included include seven large American corporations, four small businesses and four public sector organizations and ranged from universities to major corporations.
One of the recipients of the Freedom Award was East Carolina University. They were nominated by Lt. Col. Paul J. Schenarts who is in his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan with the United States Army Medical Corps and serves as trauma surgeon at the university in the school of medicine. Steve Ballard, chancellor of the university, said he was “honored, surprised and thrilled” to receive the award.
“To get this recognition made us feel good,” he said. “Other universities get more money, get more credit and get more recognition but this is more important to us than any of those things.”
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Steven Boos also nominated his employer Food Lion for their support during his deployment. Boos, who works as a store manager for the company, said his company worked around his schedule when he had to leave for training , made sure to keep him in the loop while he was deployed through emails and phone calls and always made him feel comfortable that he had a place to return to.
“They made me feel like I was a part of the bigger picture,” he said.
Cathy Green, president of Food Lion, accepted the award on behalf of her organization. She said the company has over 230 employees in the Guard and Reserve and they send care packages, write letters, check in on families and do yard work to make sure the families know they are cared for.
“It’s an incredible honor for our organization,” she said. “When I think about people like Steve and the things they do everyday to give us freedom as Americans words can’t describe how I felt that we were nominated.”
The 2011 Freedom Award nomination season will be Nov. 1 to Jan. 17, 2011 and nomination information will be available on the Freedom Award website.
To learn more about the Employer Support Freedom Awards and to see a complete list of recipients visit the Defense.gov special.