For the last 21 years, just as surely as kids flock back to school, the close of August has coincided with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. This year, the Pentagon ceremony, held Aug. 25, honored 15 companies for their exemplary support of employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserve.

The award is the highest form of recognition given by the U.S. government to civilian employers for their support of Guard and Reserve members and their families.

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who presided over the ceremony, said to employers, “We really do, here in the Pentagon, do our best to take care and provide for our men and women but you and your organizations go the extra mile and you make our jobs easier.

“Here in the Pentagon we say leadership casts a long shadow. Your shadow is long. Your employees see it. The communities you operate in see it, and it manifests itself at this level as the will of the nation,” the deputy secretary added.

The ceremony included leaders from the DoD Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, or ESGR, previous award recipients, current and former DoD personnel, congressional representatives, and Guard members and Reservists and their families and friends.

Shanahan welcomed singer and entertainer Marie Osmond as a special guest. Osmond related her experiences growing up in a military family and gave an impassioned talk about the privilege of having entertained troops around the world. The all-veteran vocal group 4TROOPS also performed at the ceremony.

For this year’s award, Service members submitted 3,064 nominations, and ESGR state committees along with the DoD had the daunting task of whittling down that merited list to 15 exceptional organizations.

Shanahan said the award recipients represent the best of the best and come in all shapes and sizes, from 40 employees to 150,000; from Georgia to Arizona, Wyoming to Massachusetts; from services to products.

To view all of the nominees, semifinalists, finalists, and recipients for 2017, visit

ESGR_SocialBadge_2018A New Season Upon Us

With the successful completion of the 2017 ESGR Freedom Award season, it’s time to look forward to next year. On Oct. 1, ESGR began taking nominations for the 2018 Freedom Award.

Although the award ceremony is the capstone event, the true essence of the award lies in the commitment these outstanding employers make to work environments that promote readiness and resilience in the Guard and Reserve community. It’s patriotism expressed as company and organizational policy.

If you are a Guard or Reserve member whose employer has supported you in your military career as well as your job with them, consider nominating them. Doing so not only gives your employer recognition, it also helps raise the bar nationwide for all employers.

ESGR will be gathering nominations from Guard and Reserve employees until Dec. 31, so act fast! You can begin the nomination process by filling out the form at

Coverage of the award ceremony by Cheryl Pellerin of DoD News, Defense Media Activity provides the basis for this story.