Commentary: Civilian Employer "Does it Right" for Reserve Soldier
Master Sgt. John Sookikian poses with an Iraqi soldier and fellow American Soldier in the Dourya District of Baghdad in 2006. Master Sgt. Sookikian was deployed for four out of seven years while employed with Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Inc.

In 2003, my Reserve unit was called to active duty to support the training efforts at Fort Jackson, S.C. Being the first sergeant at the time, I was told to report within two hours of the notification.

I walked in to the office of my civilian boss, Barclay Ryan, and told him I had to leave within 20 minutes to report. He had no issues and made sure that everything was in order for my extended stay.

After nine months away I was welcomed back to my job at Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Inc., and taken in with open arms. This wasn't the last time my CED provided excellent support to me while I served my country through the Army Reserve.

Because of my desire to serve in combat, I had put in for a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. Four months after I returned to work, I got those orders for a tour in Iraq. Ryan didn't even blink an eye but, again, made sure that everything was taken care of for my extended stay.

While overseas the management and employees stayed in contact with me and my family. They even took time to send care packages for my troops. When I contacted them to let them know that I was being extended, they wished me luck and again made sure everything was taken care of for me.

While I was overseas my wife and children relocated to Charleston, S.C. Upon my return from Iraq, my civilian employer placed me in a position in our Charleston branch so I could be closer to my kids. This was extraordinary when you consider that both branches employ only 10 - 15 people and the fact that my division manager supported this even though he had requested that I relocate to Florida for a management position.

After six months in Charleston, the 108th Division got orders to go to Iraq. They were going to be performing the same mission that I had been doing for two years and asked if I would go.

I was afraid that this would strain my relationship with my employer, but nothing was further from the truth. My new manager, Mike Goss, wished me well and made sure that everything was in order. The division manager, Gary Pike, came up from Florida and along with my old manager, and the took me to a Carolina football game. They secured box seats for the event because they knew how much I enjoyed Carolina football.

While overseas, my boss sent ten pounds of Starbuck's coffee along with other assorted goodies every two to four weeks, upon request, to me and my team. He did this on his own until the division manager, Gary Pike, found out and had him expense it so the company would pay for it. They did this throughout the 16 months I was away.

When I started a "toy and clothing" program for the children of Iraq, I received packages from several CED branches. I also received best wishes from the regional vice president, Butch Mistretta, and the company president, Dean Burch.

When I returned, I was given as much time off before returning to work as I needed and have been given any time I need for personal or medical issues. I have been given a position above the one I left, and have been treated by everyone here as if I was never gone.

In the seven years that I have been employed, I have been gone for four years. The people of CED, from the top to the bottom, have gone above and beyond what is required for employers to do. They have done it right!

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16