The Department of Defense is recognizing Sanford Health as one of the nation’s top employers that support the National Guard and Reserve.
Sanford is one of only 15 recipients this year to receive the ‘Employer Support Freedom Award’; the highest U.S. government honor for employers.
The ‘Employer Support Freedom Award’ was created to publicly recognize employers who provide exceptional support to their guard and reserve employees.
“I’d compare it to like winning the Super Bowl or being a Hall of Famer, you only get in their once, the competition is so extreme amongst all these other great employers that are doing the same thing we are,” Paul Weckman, Director of Veteran and Military Services at Sanford Health said.
It’s important to note, that almost half of the U.S. military is made up of guard and reserve members, like Kenny Grunewaldt.
He not only works at Sanford Health, but he’s also a 26-year Veteran and high ranking leader at the South Dakota Air National Guard.
When COVID-19 hit, he was busy responding at both places.
“It was never questioned, whether or not I could take time away from Sanford to attend meetings and be involved with the guard as I needed too, it was never questioned, it was encouraged,” Grunewaldt said.
Grunewaldt is grateful to Sanford knowing his employer always has his back when it comes to his military service.
“That’s the real pay off that is more meaningful to me personally than getting a piece of metal or trophy you hang up and collects dust in 30 years you know what I mean,” Weckman said.
“The guard can’t do their mission without support of civilian employers and it’s very hard for members of the guard to be open about their military service if they don’t have their employer support,” Gruenwaldt said.
Sanford will receive the award during a special ceremony this weekend at the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance.