Frater to Receive Top DOD Honor on Behalf of Choctaw Nation
ARLINGTON, VA -The United States Department of Defense has announced the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recipients. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.
Out of 2,199 nominations, the Choctaw Nation was one of only 15 recipients of this year's Freedom Award, which will be presented September 18 in Washington, D. C.
"These employers have provided exceptional support to the men and women serving in our National Guard and Reserve and now, more than ever, we appreciate and thank them for doing much more for these employees than the law requires," said Dr. L. Gordon Sumner Jr., Executive Director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR.)
"We are pleased and excited to announce Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as a recipient of the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award," said Dr. Sumner. "The tremendous support Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma provides for Guard and Reserve employees and their families is exemplary and helps our citizen warriors protect our nation without concern for their jobs."
"I am overwhelmed," said Choctaw Chief Frater Gregory E. Pyle (Epsilon-Theta, Southeast Oklahoma State Univ.) upon hearing of the award. "This is fantastic. We have been blessed here in Southeastern Oklahoma and want to do all we can to help those who serve us in the military. Receiving the 2008 Freedom Award is a great opportunity to say 'Thank You' to the soldiers and veterans of the United States."
"We have helped Choctaws and non-Choctaws. We have helped employees and non-employees," said the Chief. "I can't say enough words of appreciation for the people who keep us free.
"My son-in-law served in Iraq leading convoys and helped me realize what needs some of the troops had and we were able to meet a portion of those needs."
The tribe has hosted send-off and welcome home events for the 1-180th, which is headquartered in Durant, sent an ultrasound machine to Iraq to check for embedded shrapnel, provided thousands of care packages and made buses, drivers and fuel available to bring soldiers back home for the holidays last Christmas. When Chief Pyle heard that some soldiers needed special knives to use as potential live-saving tools to cut disabled hood straps or seat belts after being hit with improvised explosive devises, he made sure the knives were purchased and sent directly to Afghanistan. Walkie-talkies were sent to the 95th Reservists so that transport teams could talk to each other when their visibility was too low to know their location by sight.
The Veterans Advocacy Program of the Choctaw Nation ensures that Guardsmen and Reservists get their jackets, hats and other gifts that are provided each year at the Veterans Day Ceremony at the Tribal Capitol. The Veteran's Advocate is also the contact for needs dealing with interment of Choctaw veterans at the beautiful cemetery at the Capitol Grounds of Tushka Homma set aside especially for that purpose.
The Choctaw Nation has been very willing to support those serving in the military, whether their role is in the National Guard, Reserve, or any other branch of armed services. Employees are highly honored for their willingness to serve.
Family support is also given through tribal services to employees and their families who are active military, or whose spouse is active military. Equipment to make Internet connections possible have been provided to some of the troops in Iraq so they can stay in touch with home.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (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 mediation. More information about ESGR is available here.
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. More information about the Freedom Award is available here or by calling the ESGR office at (800) 336-4590.
Adapted from Choctaw Nation Press Release. If you would like to see your chapter news here, contact Communications Coordinator Tom McAninch.