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ARLINGTON, Va. – National Guard and Reserve members are responsible for a 97 percent increase in nominations for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. When the nomination period closed January 21, two thousand one hundred ninety nine nominations were submitted from across the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In 2007, one thousand one hundred nineteen nominations were submitted. National Guard and Reserve members and their families were eligible to nominate employers who went above and beyond in their support of military employees. The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the U.S. Government’s highest recognition given to outstanding employers.

The 2008 recipients will be announced in the spring and honored in Washington, D.C. at the 13th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony on September 18, 2008. Recipients of the 2007 Freedom Award met with President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright presented the awards at a ceremony attended by members of Congress and senior government and military officials.

Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the National Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. Past recipients of the Freedom Award have provided full salary, continuation of benefits, care packages and even home and lawn care to families of employees fulfilling their military obligation.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.

ESGR is a Department of Defense agency established in 1972. Its mission is to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law, and resolving conflicts through informal mediation.

Previous Freedom Award recipients have included such large businesses as General Motors, Starbucks, Home Depot, American Express, Sears, General Electric, DuPont, and United Parcel Service; state and local governments, including the State of Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and small businesses including the family owned Augustine & Sons farm in Rose Hill, IA and Turbocam International.

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