Dennis M. McCarthy: How employers can help citizen warriors 

In 1999, the United States Senate designated the month of May as National Military Appreciation Month. The purpose of this observance is to recognize the important role that our military has played throughout the nation's history.

With Military Spouse Appreciation Day on the 7th; Armed Forces Day on the 15th; and, of course, Memorial Day ceremonies at the end of May, there are many opportunities for us to remember and thank our service members, past and present, and their families. However, one of the most important ways we can say thank you is to ensure that our communities' men and women of the National Guard and Reserve have civilian jobs with which they may support their families.

Our citizen warriors are a vital element of our national defense. Currently, Guard and Reserve members make up nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. Armed Forces. More than 765,000 Reserve component service members have been called to active duty since Sept. 11, 2001; 132,000 of those are serving on active duty right now.

Just as we rely heavily on these individuals, they rely on our support and the support of our nation's employers.

The businesses that employ our citizen warriors provide support in a variety of ways. Some provide differential pay between military and civilian salaries, offer continued benefits coverage during deployments, send frequent care packages and messages of support, or even help the family cover household maintenance duties.

Actions like these offer comfort and peace of mind to National Guard and Reserve members, which allows them to perform difficult duties.

Often, employers have many questions when their Guard and Reserve employees are called to active duty. In response, a Department of Defense agency, the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, has built a team of more than 4,600 trained volunteers throughout all 54 states and territories.

They work closely with employers and their Guard and Reserve employees to answer questions and foster positive communication. Volunteering with ESGR is an important way members of the community can help.

Employers give their support for very basic reasons. First, business and civic leaders recognize and value the freedoms the National Guard and Reserve help to provide. They also value their citizen warriors as employees.

They know that the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve bring a strong work ethic, leadership ability and other important skills to the workplace. It is no surprise that many of America's employers place a high priority on hiring citizen warriors.

I ask that all employers, from large corporations to small businesses, consider doing the same. This is how we should say thanks, and how together, we all serve.

Dennis M. McCarthy is the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. He previously served as the commander, Marine Forces Reserve, 2001 to 2005.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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