Sometimes experiences bring new meaning to old traditions. After a year in Afghanistan, I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
On Mother's Day, I was out on patrol in rural southern Afghanistan when our vehicle rolled over a massive improvised explosive device that should have ended our lives instantly. Fortunately, the homemade bomb failed to detonate.
25% Guard-Reserve forces
From violent attacks to the welfare of loved ones back home, life in a combat zone is a mosaic of daily worries. For those of us serving in the Guard and Reserves — which account for more than 25 percent of those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — we often contend with additional burdens. Unlike active duty service members, we leave our civilian jobs behind when we are called to serve, putting our positions, pay and benefits at risk.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act provides Guard and Reserve members basic protections, but leaves some of the extended support policy to the discretion of employers. Consequently, some Guard and Reserve service members lose income, or valuable clients as a result of their service. Most leave their families behind without the support available to active duty military families living on or near military bases. Luckily, for me, I did not have these concerns.
On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I have the privilege of serving our country while enjoying the benefits of working at a generous private sector employer like Intuit, recipient of the Department of Defense's 2010 Freedom Award, the U.S. government's highest honor presented for outstanding employer support of reservists and members of the National Guard.
Employers that receive the Freedom Award offer extensive support to their employees serving in the armed forces, such as matching salary during deployments and continuous health benefits. My company also sent care packages and even offered to help my family with basic household chores while I was away.
Dozens of companies, from multi-billion dollar corporations, like the pharmaceutical leader Merck, to mom-and-pop shops, like the five-employee Bill Bragg Plumbing in San Francisco, commit to ensuring their employees who serve our country can concentrate on their missions and not worry how their service will affect them financially, professionally and personally.
In today's economic climate, organizations may be limited in their ability to expand benefit offerings, but some of the most meaningful support is non-monetary. A simple note expressing support and appreciation can mean a lot to someone serving overseas. As a deployed reservist, knowing that my co-workers support my service and the sacrifices of my family is truly something to be thankful for.
So, this Thanksgiving, I ask that you consider what you and your employer do for members of the Guard and Reserve. If your company provides exceptional support for reservists and members of the Guard, nominate them for the Freedom Award before Jan. 17, 2011, at www.freedomaward.mil. Recommending them for such distinguished recognition is a wonderful way to express your appreciation at this time of the year.
Tim Graczewski is director of strategy and corporate development at Intuit and a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He served as economic development adviser in NATO's Regional Command (South) in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from October 2009 to September 2010.