Upper Burrell company receives Employer Support Freedom Award
Brian Hurst missed the football games and track meets of his two teenage sons while serving in Iraq for a year with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
But thanks to his employer, Yerecic Label, the 44-year-old staff sergeant from Greensburg kept in touch using an international cell phone and a laptop with video chatting and Internet access.
"Having that extra little bit of communication with them helped a lot," said Hurst, Yerecic Label's vice president of manufacturing. "There is no better friend to the Guard and Reserves than Yerecic Label."
The Upper Burrell company last week was one of 15 nationwide to receive the Employer Support Freedom Award from the Department of Defense. It is the highest recognition for supporting employees who serve in the Guard or Reserves.
"We just did what we thought was the right thing to do, so certainly we didn't expect any extra thanks," said Rich Thoma, vice president of sales and marketing for Yerecic Label.
The company had three of its 90 employees deployed with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard from September 2008 to September. Aside from providing a way for them to communicate with family back home, Yerecic Label paid all three Guard members what they would have made if they worked during the time they spent serving.
"It really makes you feel good that everyone still cares about them while they're over serving our country and protecting our freedom," said Art Yerecic, the company's president.
The company and individual employees sent Hurst and the other Guard members letters, cards and care packages, said Linda Ciuca, vice president of purchasing and administration.
About 2,500 members of the Guard and the Reserves nominated their employers for the 2010 Freedom Award. All employers nominated - including the Moon Township Parks and Recreation department -- received the Patriot Award, which also recognizes exceptional support of employees in the service.
Dana Kasler, Moon's parks and recreation director, and Vicki Jones, park maintenance supervisor, received the Patriot Award last week after being nominated by maintenance worker Kevin Lovely, who is serving in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard.
"He's a hard worker," Kasler said. "You can certainly tell his military background with how hard he works."
Kasler and Jones said they gave Lovely extra vacation days to spend time between his training and deployment with family and friends. They hired a temporary employee until Lovely returns in May or June.