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National guard and reserve employers deserve recognition and support

By David L. McGinnis – 09/19/11

Employers across the nation are experiencing hardships in a time of economic uncertainty, trying to conduct business as usual with smaller work forces. Those who employ members of the Guard and Reserve face even greater challenges, as they share their valuable military employees with our country during ongoing combat operations and widespread natural disasters. It is heartening to see the many Guard and Reserve employers remaining dedicated to supporting their service members and being cognizant of the value they bring to both the civilian workplace and our Nation’s security. Of these employers, 15 have been exceptional in their commitment to their military employees and have earned recognition by the Secretary of Defense for their efforts.

Secretary of Defense William Perry instituted the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). ESGR develops and promotes a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees. One way ESGR champions this mission is by formally recognizing the contributions made by our nation’s most compassionate companies. Each year, 15 employers, from businesses large and small, and the public sector, are honored with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for their exemplary efforts on behalf of their Guard and Reserve employees. One of these outstanding employers is located here in Chantilly, Virginia.

Integrity Applications Incorporated (IAI) is a recipient of the 2011 Freedom Award and will be presented the award September 22, 2011 during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. IAI is veteran-owned business that actively seeks to hire veterans and current Guard and Reserve service members. Of the company’s employees, 44 percent are veterans, including four of the six members of the Board of Directors. IAI offers flexible work schedules to help reserve component members meet their drilling and military schooling obligations, and finds ways to support families of deployed service members.

In the last year, our military has provided emergency relief following natural disasters at home and abroad while continuing to fight a war. However, less than one percent of our population serves in the military, voluntarily carrying an enormous responsibility for the entire country. Reservists and Guardsmen bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce. Hiring them should become a national call to uphold their legacy of sacrifice and tireless commitment to America’s security. One of the greatest challenges facing our nation right now is unemployment and underemployment, and these related problems are especially severe for those in the Guard and Reserve or for those leaving active military service. The promise of a secure job provides service members and their families with stability and peace of mind. A reliable job also strengthens our national security, as it allows our Citizen Warriors to continue the military service they have selflessly volunteered for.

President Obama poignantly captured what employers have to gain from hiring a veteran when he stated, “If you can oversee millions of dollars in assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.” Our obligations to these men and women who risk their lives daily and shoulder the burdens of defending our great nation cannot diminish. Their success in reintegration is essential on a broad scale. This year’s 15 recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award embody all that is necessary in joining forces to support the men and women of the Guard and Reserve and their families. Our commitment to Citizen Warriors both past and present, as well as their families, must never waiver.

As our nation congratulates 15 employers who have exhibited an unshakable commitment to members of the Guard and Reserve, I encourage all Americans, particularly our employers, to consider how they may contribute to the support of our Citizen Warriors. Together we all serve.

David L. McGinnis is the acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

Read the original OpEd here: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/labor/182411-national-guard-and-reserve-employers-deserve-recognition-and-support