Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Employers play an essential role in supporting our nation's defense efforts. Unlike active duty military service members, military service is not a Guard or Reserve member's primary job. Thus, when they are deployed for active duty, local businesses adjust to overcome reduced manpower and other challenges associated with the absences of valued employees. America's businesses also provide needed flexibility to military spouses who may need to take time off to support loved ones in the military and utilize our nation's service members' skills when they return from deployment.
Tribute is paid to some of these businesses through the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award was created in 1996 "to recognize exceptional support from the employer community." According to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a DoD agency,160 employers have been honoredwith the award. In 2005, Boise-based IDACORPS, Inc. received the award and was recognized for providing full benefits and pay differential for the entire duration of military service. The company was also acknowledged for funding family outreach programs in Idaho, Washington and Oregon communities when major mobilizations have occurred and providing a full-time specialist to assist family members of mobilized employees.
The ESGR is accepting nominations for the 2012 Employer Support Freedom Award and encouraging Guard and Reserve members to nominate employers who have provided exceptional support of their military service. Nominations are being accepted through January 16, 2012 and may be submitted by service members, or a family member acting on a service member's behalf, at www.FreedomAward.mil.
The families of military service members effectively join the military when their loved one joins. Throughout a military member's career, the loving support of a wife or husband can make the difference between success or failure for that individual and their family. Military spouses endure the hardship of separation from loved ones, frequently take on the role of a single parent and move more often than most civilians throughout the course of a military career. In addition to supporting service members, employers often assist military spouses who work hard to make ends meet while enduring the uneasiness of having a loved one in harm's way.
To help provide recognition of employers' exceptional support of military families, in January, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) joined me in introducing S. 90, the Military Family-Friendly Employer Award Act. This legislation would create an award for employers that have developed and implemented workplace flexibility policies to assist the working spouses and caregivers of service members and returning service members in addressing family and home needs during deployments.
While military men and women and their families are defending our freedom, America's employers are also part of this effort. Small businesses across our nation have stepped up to support our nation and its military families. Paying tribute to this exceptional support is an honor.
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