by Ileen Kennedy, Utah National Guard Public Affairs Office
West Valley City was awarded the 2019 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award and held a special reception for community members to view the award, Sept. 17, 2019. The Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the Department of Defense to employers for their exceptional support of National Guard and Reserve members.
“For the past 18 years we have been engaged with a very difficult conflict,” said Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith, Assistant Adjutant General, Utah Army National Guard.
“Our National Guard and Reserves are highly depended upon to answer the nation’s call. We ask a lot of our service members. To have the comfort of knowing the employers are supporting them, I can’t express how great that is, and how much it contributes to the overall success of our nation.”
ESGR received 2,415 nominations for this prestigious award for employers throughout the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. West Valley City won the award, and is the first government entity in Utah to receive this honor.
“One thing that separates [Guard and Reserve members] from us, they volunteer to go to faraway places doing dangerous things protecting our liberty and freedom,” said Jeff Tiede, Chairman of the Utah Committee of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. “One really important thing is to have a job to come back to. West Valley City goes above and beyond things required. They do it because they want to, not because they have to.”
Over the last decade and a half, West Valley City has recognized its city employees who also serve with the Guard and Reserve, and wanted to make sure they were not penalized for their military service. In the early stages, the city offered little things to its military employees, and has since grown in supporting their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
“The city will provide some time off for their service, also when they are called up to active duty we provide differential pay to them for however long they serve on active duty,” said West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow. “We continue full benefits for them and their family while they are serving. Those are some of the financial aspects.”
A company or organization can not apply for the award, it has to be nominated by one of its employees. Only 265 employers have received the Freedom Award since 1996.
“The one person I need to make sure that I recognize… is Tech Sgt. Robert Brinton from the Air National Guard, who also happens to be one of our police officers,” said Bigelow. “He is the one who made the application. He was very instrumental in the city receiving that award.”
“I want to commend Sgt. Brinton for taking the time to recognize his employer,” said Smith.
“What a phenomenal thing. It would be so easy to just go about your business and not take the time to fill out the forms and nominate your employer. What a tremendous example that is.”
Brinton expressed gratitude for the support he has received from his employer—serving as a West Valley City police officer.
“The police department has provided great support to me, my family, and other service members. Through my direct chain I have received nothing but positive support with my military endeavors,” said Brinton.
“The city’s human resource department provides a seamless process when it comes to time off, benefits, and pay, which makes things easy for me when orders come on short notice.”
The annual ceremony was held at the Pentagon, in Washington, DC, Aug. 23, 2019 where 15 recipients received the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan expressed gratitude to these organizations for their role in keeping our nation safe and for setting the standard for all employers of Guard and Reserve members.