(HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill.)- Sears Holdings Corp. interim CEO and president W. Bruce Johnson signed a Statement of Support for the military June 25 in a ceremony with senior leadership from the Department of Defense and Illinois-based military organizations at the Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters. The Statement of Support extends Sears Holdings' existing commitment to the military by recognizing and enforcing the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA) which protects the civilian employment of reservist service members who are called to active duty.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas F. Hall attended the ceremony and spoke about the importance of continuing the relationship between civilian industry and service members and their families. "Today, the military is comprised of the largest group of all-volunteer forces, who are engaged in an extended war," Hall said. "By signing a Statement of Support, companies like Sears offer a crucial service to the nation's military by allowing service members to maintain a civilian lifestyle while concurrently serving their country."

During the ceremony, Sears Holdings Corp. also expanded their existing Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) contract with U.S. Army Recruiting Command to include the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The PaYS program provides participating companies with fully-trained Soldier employees in exchange for hiring preference. "What we offer to Sears, to America, are honest, drug-free Soldiers who are strong leaders, loyal followers and will help make a company successful," Col. James P. Coates, Commander 9th Brigade U.S. Army Cadet Command, said. "These young Soldiers are light years ahead of their peers for [corporations] to mold and make into good employees."

Sears Holdings' CEO Johnson said the program also benefits Sears Holdings Corp. "Expanding our successful partnership with the Army's Program for Youth Success (PaYS) to include 273 ROTC campuses around the country makes good business sense. The leadership qualities that these candidates possess align with the skills and experiences that we want in associates who come to work for Sears Holdings," he said.

The PaYS program also provides placement opportunities with 17 companies for ROTC cadets when they graduate. "The program offers a huge benefit for young Soldiers when the competitiveness of the economy is overwhelming, especially in a city such as Chicago," 2nd Lt. Bradley Benjamin, a recent graduate of University of Illinois-Chicago and ROTC program, said. "These companies are doing a service to us while we provide a service to our country."

Sears Holdings Corp. currently employs 540 members of the Armed Services.