MADISON, Wisconsin — A local small business was nominated for and won the highest award given to a civilian employer by the Department of Defense during a ceremony at the Madison Club Nov. 15.
H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection received the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award during a ceremony hosted by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve in Wisconsin.
H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection was nominated for the award by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Meierdirk, 372nd Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command. Meierdirk nominated his employer for supporting and consistently engaging with his Family while he was deployed for almost 2 ½ years.
In his nomination letter Meierdirk wrote: “My employer has provided unlimited support of my military career. I am contacted frequently as is my Family to check on our welfare. I am currently deployed, and this contact and support has continued throughout my deployment. My employer as well as several employees have engaged my Family while I’ve been deployed. My unit was delayed at our mobilization station due to COVID-19 protocols. My employer catered a Texas-sized Fourth of July barbecue for all 150 of my Soldiers. This provided a huge moral boost and I’m grateful and appreciative of the support both my Family and I receive from H.J. Pertzborn. The greatest example though of how understanding and accommodating H.J. Pertzborn has been through my military career is with the deployment I was currently on.
“Since my original deployment April of 2020 was extended six months to complete the mission when I notified my employer of an extension, they were supportive and offered to help in any way possible. Set to return in September of 2021 I was again extended. I would have gone in a planned 12-month absence to a 29-month deployment serving almost 2 ½ years on active duty. As a lead foreman for H.J. Pertzborn my absence has a significant impact on the company and I am keenly aware of this, however, they have been gracious and supportive throughout this entire time. I could not imagine or ask for a better company to work for.”
Jeffrey Unger, the ESGR team lead reserve component transition assistance advisor program, said this year, the state of Wisconsin received 59 nominations from six of the local military service components. Competition in Wisconsin is always tight and the difference between one employer score and another is just a single point.
“That speaks volumes for not only our military service members who take the time to nominate their employers, but it also speaks volumes about our Wisconsin employers, who they are, what they do, when and how often they do it,” said Unger. “We already know why they do it… because it’s the right thing to do.”
After Joe Pertzborn received his award on behalf of the company during the ceremony, Meierdirk thanked him again.
“I appreciate all of the support from the Pertzborn family,” said Meierdirk. “I couldn’t ask for a better employer.”
Pertzborn said he was humbled to receive the award on behalf of his company. He also took time to honor service members.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all current and past members of the armed forces — I truly want to say thank you,” Pertzborn said.
Maj. Gen. Brian Miller, the commanding general of 416th TEC, also thanked Pertzborn for doing an amazing job for Meierdirk, his Family, and other Soldiers.
“We cannot do it without the support of the companies that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines all work for,” Miller said. “Thank you for all those out there who continue to support your reservist and continue to try and hire veterans.”
Miller added that while the country is not at war and most believe service members are not deploying, that’s not the case as Soldiers of the TEC continue to deploy.
“We are still out there doing great things supporting this great nation,” said Miller. “People think we are done, yet we are still sending Soldiers overseas and they need support from companies like yours, Joe. The sacrifice and service your company has made is phenomenal.”
“The importance of the ESGR is just … I’ve had to rely on it for Soldiers who had problems in the past and how ESGR not just represents the Soldier but represents the company as well,” explained Maj. Gen. Matthew Baker, the commanding general of the 88th Readiness Division at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, who was representing the Army Reserve during the ceremony. “Industry plays a huge role in what we do every day.”
Baker pointed out that all the military services are feeling the same issues with retention and recruiting, just as employers are feeling it on the civilian side. ESGR is a key in that regard and is greatly appreciated. He added that the partnership with H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection is a great example of how important a role civilian companies play when service members are deployed overseas.
“Congratulations to you and your team for receiving this award,” Baker said.
The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve. Nominations must come from a Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the organization they are nominating, or from a Family member. The award was created to publicly recognize employers who provide exceptional support to their Guard and Reserve employees.
At the end of the ceremony, ESGR held a “Gathering of the Eagles” presentation where past winners of the Freedom Award in Wisconsin were brought up and recognized again for their continued support to the Guard and Reserve.
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