BLACKFOOT — For his volunteer service with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), former Blackfoot Mayor Scott Reese received a "Secretary of Defense for Outstanding Public Service" award recently.
This is the second highest award given by the U. S. Department of Defense to a non-federal employee. It was presented to Reese on Friday, Sept. 24, in Washington, D. C. Reese and seven other people received the award.
Reese has been a volunteer with the ESGR for almost 11 years. For the past six years, he served as the Idaho State Chairman for the organization.
As of last week, retired Lt. Col. Terry Harrell from Caldwell is the new Idaho ESGR state chairman.
ESGR is an agency with the Department of Defense. It seeks to develop and promote a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees. It does so by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law and resolving conflicts through mediation.
ESGR informs and educates service members and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Established in 1972, ESGR operates via a network of hundreds of volunteers within 56 field committees throughout the United States.
There are 126 volunteers in Idaho.
"We have a great base of patriotic employers," Reese said. "Idaho has always done extremely well."
Nationally, 4,400 volunteers participate with ESGR.
"Before 9-11, the ESGR was reactive," Reese said. "After 9-11, we became pro-active."
As the Idaho State Chairman, Reese and his team were able to increase the volunteer base and increase support for the guard.
For the last four years, the Idaho ESGR has sponsored the "Boss List" for employers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. At the end of August, 200 employers attended this year's Boss Lift.
As part of the Boss Lift, employers were flown in on Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters to see guardsmen working at the technical center.
"We received wonderful comments," Reese said.
Reese volunteered to work with ESGR after participating in a national "Boss Lift" at Fort Knox, Ky. At the end of the two-and-one-day experience, Reese said, "I've got to be part of this; I can make a difference."
As the state chairman, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne invited Reese to fly to Fort Polk, La., to see the troops off on their first deployment to Iraq.
"We served Thanksgiving dinner for six-and-one-half-hours," Reese said. "When Idaho troops entered the mess, I was able to serve them turkey.
"Because I had been mayor in Blackfoot, I knew most of the guardsmen from Blackfoot," he said.
"We also had the honor of seeing 4,000 soldiers board planes," Reese said. "It was extremely hard with moments of tears.
"It was the most humbling and gratifying time of my life," he said.
As a volunteer with ESGR, Reese said he's gained friends and acquaintances.
"I've worked with the finest people—people who believe in soldiers and taking care of them; who love our country," Reese said.
"I think we have the greatest nation put on the face of the earth," Reese said. "Sure we have our differences but I have faith in this country."
# # #