Twenty local companies are in the running to win this year’s U.S. Secretary of Defense’s “Employer Support Freedom Award,” the agency’s highest recognition for employers supporting members of the National Guard and Reserve.
The Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR for short), the agency that serves as liaison between the Department of Defense and civilian employees, said 3,236 nominations were received from across the U.S. mainland and its territories.
Of those, 15 winners will be selected this summer and honored in Washington, D.C. during the 17th annual Freedom Award Ceremony on Sept. 20.
Puerto Rico’s semifinalists include public and private sector employers from all corners of the island, namely: the Mennonite Hospital in Aibonito; the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority in Bayamón; the Puerto Rico Police Department Cabo Rojo and Sabana Grande precints; Seamless Puerto Rico Inc. in Camuy; American Airlines in Carolina; The Home Depot in the Plaza Escorial mall in Carolina; pharmaceutical company Amgen in Juncos.
The roster of local nominees also includes Eaton in Las Piedras; Roche Operation Ltd in Ponce; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Rio Piedras; Henkel Loctite in Sabana Grande; the Medical Services Administration, known as ASEM, in San Juan; the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan; the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, Directorate of Information Management in San Juan; the Puerto Rico Army National Guard in San Juan; U.S. Customs and Border Protection in San Juan; and RG Nets in Toa Alta.
According to the ESGR, Puerto Rico National Guard and Reserve members — or family members acting on their behalf — nominated their employers for this year’s award during a 12-week nomination period. The companies received the nod for their willingness to hold jobs while reservists are called to duty.
“Supportive employers provide a tremendous amount of stability and peace of mind to these citizen warriors and their families, enabling them to continue their dedicated service to our country,” said ESGR National Chair James G. Rebholz, noting that reservists face a higher unemployment rate than civilians.
“And the benefits these service members bring to the workplace also come with challenges as our nation continues to call them away from their jobs to answer the call to duty,” he said.
Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the Guard and Reserve, and while most employers proudly support their military employees, “Freedom Award” recipients go above and beyond what is required by law, the ESGR further noted.