News: Department of Defense honors two Tennessee employers
Story by Capt. Darrin Haas
ARLINGTON, Va. – Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense agency, announced last week that Steel Plate Fabricators, of Knoxville, and Eastman Chemical of Kingsport, have been selected to receive the 2013 Secretary of Defense “Freedom Award.”
They are among only 15 employers in the U.S. being honored with the DoD’s highest recognition given for exceptional support of Guard and Reserve employees. Freedom Award recipients go “above and beyond” what the law requires of Guard and Reserve employers and go to extraordinary lengths to support their military members through both formal and informal initiatives. Since 1996, only 175 employers have received the Freedom Award. The two Tennessee employers chosen this year were picked from among 2,899 nominations submitted.
Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, said “these two Tennessee winners speak volumes about the kind of support we receive from our employers across the state. The National Guard has been used more in the past 10 years than at any time since World War II. Employers of our soldiers and Airmen have continually stepped up to the plate with support, not only for our deployed troops, but their families.”
Steel Plate Fabricators was nominated by Sgt. Cameron Lale from the 134th Air Refueling Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard. When a clerical error delayed the airman’s military pay, the owner of Steel Plate Fabricators provided a loan to support him until the pay issue was resolved. The company also finds unique ways to recognize its military employees, from displaying a laser-cut stainless steel American flag in the front office to maintaining a wall showcasing the military service of employees.
Eastman Chemical was nominated by Col. Jerry Duncan of the Army Reserve. The company provides an additional week of paid leave to military employees returning from deployment, allowing service members more time at home with their families. Eastman also hosts departure and welcome home ceremonies, posts updates in company communications about military employees, and presents an award recognizing the sacrifice of service members. Many Eastman employees volunteer to do yard maintenance and home repairs for deployed co-workers to help ease their families’ added workload.
The 2013 recipients will be honored at the 18th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony in Washington, on September 26, 2013.
For questions or interviews regarding the Freedom Award, please contact Beth Sherman, ESGR Public Affairs, at 571-372-0705 or by email at ESGR-PA@osd.mil.