CHARLOTTE, N.C. (11/21/11)--In a week focused on giving thanks, a letter written by a credit union employee who is thankful for the support he received from the credit union when he was deployed to active duty as a reservist seems a special way to recognize what credit unions do for people.
The letter, which appeared in Thursday's issue of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, was written by Jamie Applequist, a senior vice president at State Employees' CU (SECU) in Raleigh, N.C. and a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
SECU was one of 15 employers nationwide to receive the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the Department of Defense's highest honor for civilian employers of National Guard and Reserve members. Applequist in his letter tells why he nominated SECU for that award.
"As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself reflecting on the many things I am thankful for in life." He wrote he is approaching 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, and although he made a decision not to re-enlist, he decided to commit to the Air Force Reserve.
His civilian career with SECU began in 1999. "Employers at that time accommodated Guard and Reserve employees' service, but 9/11 changed that dynamic dramatically…Two-week training periods have been replaced with long, grueling deployments."
After 9/11, he was deployed for his first extended tour as a reservist. "I was working in a small credit union branch for SECU, and I will never forget the fear I had when I went to tell my boss I was being activated. I expected the worst, but received the opposite. He delivered a full vote of confidence and assured me the credit union would be behind me every step of the way. Not once did I worry about my position being there for me when I got back," Applequist wrote.
"And while I was gone, SECU was amazing, frequently checking on my family and regularly sending care packages to me and my fellow airmen," he added. "There are few ways to describe just how valuable this type of support and peace of mind can be when you are leaving your family and job behind for a long deployment."
He noted that most members of the Guard and Reserve have similar employer stories but also recalled a younger service member who lost his job because of his extended deployment. Despite acquiring leadership and skill sets through their service, Guard and Reserve members face a higher unemployment rate than civilians, he said.
"That's why those of us with supportive employers feel such gratitude," he wrote. "This Thanksgiving season, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have had in my life serving my country, my family, and the State Employees' Credit Union."
He encouraged all Guard and Reserve members to thank their supportive employers by nominating them for the 2012 Freedom Award at FreedomAward.mil. Deadline is Jan. 16.