ARLINGTON, Va. - The nation's top National Guard employers were among the 15 recipients of the annual Secretary of Defense ESGR Freedom Award, and hailed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan for their "genuine care and concern" for Guard members, during a recent ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

"We're here to recognize you because of the genuine care and concern you demonstrate for our team members," Shanahan said. "Your support allows them to focus on how they do their job, and not have concerns on what is happening at home. You enable us to keep the nation safe."

The Secretary insisted that employers are the cornerstone of the Department of Defense's efforts to focus on recruitment and retention and to maintain an outstanding all-volunteer force.

"The beautiful part of these awards … is you make us feel stronger," he added. "You make us feel supported and you, frankly, represent what's great in America."

Recipients were selected from 3,064 nominations received from National Guard and Reserve employees. Nine of the honorees were nominated by an Army or Air National Guard member.

The 2017 Secretary of Defense ESGR Freedom Award winners are:

• Accordia Urgent Care Family Practice, Warner Robins, Georgia.
• Andeavor, San Antonio, Texas
• Boston Scientific Corporation, Marlborough, Massachusetts.
• Cargill, Wayzata, Minnesota.
• Comcast NBC Universal, Philadelphia.
• CSI Aviation, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
• Hensel Phelps Construction, Greeley, Colorado.
• Howard County Fire and Rescue, Columbia, Maryland.
• Indianapolis Fire Department, Indianapolis.
• Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
• Mesa Natural Gas Solutions, Casper, Wyoming.
• Office of the District Attorney, 18th Judicial District, Centennial, Colorado.
• Renown Health, Reno, Nevada.
• Salt River Project, Tempe, Arizona.
• ZAPATA, Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize employers who provide exceptional support for their Guard and Reserve employees.