Editor’s note: Article provided by the ESGR Illinois State Chair and is used with permission
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve has been around since 1972, and during 2022 they are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the program. ESGR was originated with the purpose to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers. Without supportive employers, our citizen soldiers could not serve and protect our country at home and overseas.
Across the United States, volunteers are situated in committees representing each of the 50 states along with Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and District of Columbia. Here in Illinois, we have just under 50 volunteers spread across the state who work to encourage and strengthen employer support for military service in the Guard and Reserve. State chair for the Illinois ESGR committee is Laurie Silvey, Associate Vice President for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
“The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is a strong supporter of ESGR and the military,” Silvey says. “We understand how important it is for employers to value their reserve component service members and meet their needs.” Laurie first became involved with the Illinois committee for ESGR when she was asked by her then boss, Michael Ayers, to help with the Awards conference that year. Dr. Ayers was the State Chair at the time as well as Executive Vice President for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The Illinois Chamber’s support has continued and blossomed, culminating in the presentation of a Seven Seals award in 2021. “Our strong commitment to ESGR is one of the things that makes me the most proud of the Illinois Chamber,” Todd Maisch, President and CEO, said when accepting his award during the Annual Meeting and Luncheon last year. “It means a lot to me.”
The relationship has been a good opportunity for employers in Illinois to learn about ESGR and participate in a variety of bosslifts and Briefings with the Boss. “We often invite our members who have reserve component service member employees to events such as bosslifts,” Silvey says. “During those events, we can provide employer briefings to give a better understanding of what their service member employees are doing when away for trainings or when mobilized.”
Many of Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s members are longtime supporters of the military and have been recognized for their efforts. In 2019, Archer Daniels Midland was one of 15 recipients to be awarded the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. They were nominated by Andrew Marchese, a project manager for ADM and a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve. “Winning the award showed that ADM is among the top companies in the U.S. to work for when it comes to support of Reserve and Guard,” Marchese says. “We submitted nominations multiple years, and each year, ADM continued to get stronger as a company, increasing their level of support. ADM didn’t’ give up on support of the military and my colleagues, so I kept trying. It was a humbling moment when we got the news of the award.”
The Boeing Company was a Freedom Award winner twice, first in 1996 as McDonnell Douglas. They were nominated again as The Boeing Company and received the Freedom Award in 2001 for their continued support of their military employees. In 2021, The Boeing Company was recently presented with an Extraordinary Employer Support (EES) Award during the Illinois Chamber’s Annual Luncheon.
Ryan Kenny, business analyst with The Boeing Company, accepted the EES. “I’ve been in the Marine Corps for 19 years, the last ten in the reserves,” Kenny says. “I appreciate Illinois ESGR recognizing how well The Boeing Company does to support its military employees. They are by far, one of the better companies to work for while in the reserves. Thank you ESGR and I am honored to be able to accept this award for The Boeing Company.”
State Farm was nominated and received the Freedom Award in 2008. They have been a strong supporter of the military and veterans, hosting an annual Veterans Day breakfast for many years. Multiple agents and other employees of the company have received Patriot Awards. In 2021, they received an Extraordinary Employer Support Award as well.
Josh Lowe, Talent Management Manager at State Farm, and a member of their Leadership Council for Military Affinity Group accepted the EES. “Receiving this award just validates the work we put into achieving our mission of support for military service members both current and former,” Lowe says. “We want military service members to succeed in both their careers.”
Hanson Professional Services, Inc. was a 2011 winner of the Freedom Award. Caterpillar, Inc. received their Freedom Award in 2012 and their Extraordinary Employer Support Award in 2019. Many other Illinois Chamber of Commerce members have been recipients of Above & Beyond, Patriotic Employer or Pro Patria awards through the years.
ESGR has served the United States for 50 years, providing education and training to encourage all employers to appreciate and stand behind the employment and military service of reserve component servicemembers. Illinois Chamber of Commerce looks forward to another 50 years of supporting Illinois ESGR and the members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Become an ESGR volunteer! Our dedicated volunteers come from all walks of life. We are business executives, civic leaders and patriotic citizens.
Some volunteer activities include:
Employer Outreach: Develop relationships with employers to promote advocacy for service in the Guard and Reserve.
Ombudsman: Work with employers and Service members to prevent, reduce, or resolve misunderstandings regarding employment rights and responsibilities.
Public Affairs: Work with military and civilian media organizations to promote public understanding of the ESGR mission.
Military Outreach: Inform and educate members of the Guard and Reserve regarding their employment rights and responsibilities under USERRA.
For more information about becoming a volunteer, go to www.ESGR.mil or call Kathy Kozak at 309-567-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org