ROCKPORT, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage joined representatives of a U.S. Defense Department program on Saturday in recognizing 14 Maine employers that offered “outstanding support” for employees serving in the Maine National Guard and Reserve.
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, or ESGR, is a nearly 40-year-old organization within the U.S. Department of Defense that works with companies to foster a better understanding of the needs and rights of Guard and Reserve members.
Each year, the Maine committee of the ESGR recognizes organizations for their support of “citizen soldiers” and their families as part of a national award program. On Saturday, the committee presented awards to 14 companies or government agencies — including several from the Bangor area — during a ceremony at the Samoset Resort.
The companies recognized on Saturday were:
• Alfred Fire Department.
• Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., Bangor.
• Bank of America, Belfast.
• Delta Ambulance, Waterville.
• Home Depot, Rockland.
• Kennebec Internal Medicine, Augusta.
• Mac-Lin Medical, Bangor.
• Maine Warden Service, Augusta.
• Oakland Police Department.
• Riverside Farm, Monroe.
• SGC Engineering, Westbrook.
• Spurwink Services, Portland.
• Two Bridges Regional Jail, Wiscasset.
• U.S. Postal Service, Hampden.
“I want to thank you all so much for helping these families,” LePage told the group. “They are not just good people, they are great heroes and great warriors.”
Roughly 4,200 Maine residents now serve in the Maine National Guard or Reserve units. Many of those units have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years — some multiple times — putting a strain on families and potentially employers.
Gregory Small, executive director of ESGR’s Maine committee, said the only way for an employer to receive the award is to be nominated by a Guard member or reservist.
“They do it because they want to thank that employer for their support for their service in the National Guard,” Small said.
Saturday’s recipients were recognized for a variety of practices that helped support employees serving in the military.
For instance, the Belfast offices of Bank of America distribute care packages to deployed soldiers, regularly organize trips to Bangor International Airport to greet returning troops, distribute holiday cards at veterans’ homes, and hold special events recognizing employees who serve, their families and the families of veterans.
Small pointed out that the owners of Riverside Farm took over operations of their neighbor’s farm for a year when he was deployed overseas.
Delta Ambulance, which employs several National Guard members, received special recognition from ESGR with the organization’s “Pro Patria” award, which is given to one employer deemed to have provided “exceptional support” of Guard or Reserve members through practices or personnel policies.
LePage said employers can serve as an important support network for families when Maine National Guard members are deployed. But the governor reserved the most praise for the Mainers willing to serve with Guard or Reserve units.
“They not only get up in the morning, go to work, raise families and become members of the community, at the end of the day they also put on a uniform and spend many, many hours training so they can be prepared to be deployed,” LePage said.
The governor was accompanied to the event by his wife, Ann LePage, who has made support for Maine’s military families a top priority in her duties as Maine’s first lady.