In this year's nomination process, both the Bartow County School System and Adairsville High School were named as nominees for the annual Freedom Award. Although neither organization was selected to advance in the awards process, nominating employees remain grateful to their employers.
Organized by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense agency, the Freedom Award nomination process recognizes the efforts of employers acting to support servicemen and women through military training and deployment demands.
Responsible for nominating AHS was South Carolina National Guard member Allison Dittrich. As a first-year teacher at Adairsville High, Dittrich was blown away with the kindness shown to her during a deployment last August.
"This is my first year at Adairsville High School and at the very beginning of the year, I was asked to deploy in response to Hurricane Irene and there was such an outpouring of support with prayers and class coverage," Dittrich said. "There was just so much that they did for me as an individual that they really banded together and made me feel like part of their family not just because I was a teacher there but because I was a part of their family."
Dittrich was deployed for one week to help in the disaster assistance project during which time she received support from coworkers and administration.
"They offered prayers, they created lesson plans for my students, they did class coverage. They actually called my family to see if they needed anything -- any groceries, if they needed any childcare, if they needed anything," she said. "They encouraged me that everything would be fine while I was gone, to just go ahead and focus on what my mission was and they were very flexible and they were great in assuring me everything would be fine while I was gone."
With more than 10 years of military service under her belt, Dittrich has experienced negative reactions in the workplace due to her requirements with the National Guard. The fact she was new in her position made the school's support of her deployment all the more meaningful.
"I have had really critical employers in the past where they weren't understanding of why I needed to be missing days off of work or why I needed to be on call and it added an element of stress to my job wondering if any of my evaluation is going to be based on the fact that I have to be deployed with the military or miss military days," Dittrich said. "It's not constitutional, but people still make judgments and personal judgments can reflect on your evaluation whether it's a conscious thing or not."
Bartow County Schools and AHS were just two of 103 Georgia companies nominated for the 2012 Freedom Award out of a total 3,236 nominated nationwide. A list of semifinalists was announced last week eliminating them from the contest, which will award the final winners in classes of employer size in September.
"Guard and Reserve members, who stand ready to serve whenever our nation needs them, often put their civilian lives on hold when they answer the call to duty. Supportive employers provide a tremendous amount of stability and peace of mind to these Citizen Warriors and their families, enabling them to continue their dedicated service to our country," stated an ESGR press release. "The Freedom Award is the Department of Defense's highest recognition for employers supporting members of the Guard and Reserve."
For more information on the ESGR, visit www.freedomaward.mil.