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Local companies go above and beyond to support citizen-soldiers

Members of the Oregon National Guard and reserve units from all branches of the military sacrifice a great deal for our communities and for our nation. Sometimes, those in the military find themselves under unimaginable levels of stress as they serve in harm’s way in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

So it’s good to know there is a national program that recognizes companies — including some in Washington County — that are going “above and beyond” to take care of employees who are called to active duty. Those in the military already have more than enough pressure (and danger) in their lives. They should not also have to worry about how they will make a living when they return from duty overseas.

A federal law, known as the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act, protects members of the Army or Air National Guard as well as members of the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve when they are away from their civilian jobs for voluntary or involuntary training or service.

State law also protects National Guard members who are required to leave their jobs for active duty.

Yet because accommodating the loss of employees for several months or more is not necessarily an easy task, a national Department of Defense program called Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve (ESGR) was established in 1972 to “promote cooperation and understanding between service members and their civilian employers, and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.”

We often hear about the sacrifices of those serving in the military, but this unique Department of Defense program also recognizes the sacrifices made by many employers. One aspect of the ESGR effort is to honor employers who are going beyond what is legally required to support those who are called to duty and thus are forced to leave their civilian jobs. ESGR has a total of seven different award programs that help to strengthen relationships between service members and employers.

In an example from Washington County, Todd Frankel, sales manager at Bruce Chevrolet in Hillsboro, was recently nominated by Staff Sgt. Ryan Kirk of the Oregon National Guard for a “Patriot Award.” The award honors individual supervisors and bosses who have gone out of their way to support a member of the armed forces who is also an employee of a civilian business.

Kirk worked as a salesman at Bruce Chevrolet, but he was called to active duty late last year and is currently serving in Afghanistan.

It’s one thing to promise to hold a job open for someone whose military service requires them to leave the country. But Frankel and Bruce Chevrolet truly did go the distance to support Kirk, and in doing so not only gained the appreciation of Kirk, but also caught the attention of the Department of Defense. To show his gratitude to Bruce Chevrolet and to Todd Frankel for what Kirk considered an exemplary level of support, Kirk nominated them for the Patriot Award.

“The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for family members and granting leaves of absence if needed,” is how the award is formally described.

According to retired Army Col. Herbert Hirst, who lives in North Plains, Washington County has gained recognition with a handful of ESGR awards like the one awarded to Bruce Chevrolet over the past couple years. In addition to this Hillsboro auto dealership, Intel and SolarWorld are also on the list of companies that have been recognized for their positive efforts on behalf of employees who serve in the military.

We want to salute the people who created the ESGR program and are making the program work effectively — for members of the armed forces as well as the businesses they work for; the Guardsmen and reservists who are called to active duty and required to give up their civilian jobs for an unknown and highly uncertain period of time; and those in charge of the many companies — including but not limited to Intel, SolarWorld and Bruce Chevrolet — who demonstrate they understand it’s only fair to hold a job open for those who have served when they come home.

Their fine example is worthy of recognition and appreciation from all of us.


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