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KCS Honored For Support Of Guard, Reserve Employees

The U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday announced that Knox County Schools is one of 15 recipients of the 2023 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest U.S. government honor to employers for support of National Guard and Reserve employees.

The DOD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve office (ESGR) received 1,863 nominations for the award for employers throughout the 50 states, Guam-CNMI, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

According to ESGR, recipients distinguished themselves by going far beyond the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, to support their National Guard and Reserve employees.

“On behalf of the Department of Defense, congratulations to the 2023 Freedom Award recipients as we mark the 27th year of this highly coveted recognition,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. “We appreciate everything they do for our National Guardsmen, our Reservists, and their families. Employer support is just as important today as it was 50 years ago when our nation transitioned to an All-Volunteer force. Without the unfaltering support of employers like this year's recipients, the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve would not be able to fulfill their vital mission in our nation's defense and security. It is a great honor for me to recognize these employers.”

In receiving the award, Knox County Schools has been recognized for practices including:

  • Human Resources policies that exceed federally mandated USERRA requirements, including the recent policy revision to increase the accrued military leave for service members from 20 to 30 days;
  • Student participation in events including the annual Veterans Day parade;
  • School participation in the national Medal of Honor convention; and
  • Recognition of veterans at athletic events and other gatherings.

“Guard and Reserve Service members are valued employees of Knox County Schools, and their excellence in teaching, leading, and supporting students will make a difference for generations to come,” said superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk. “One of our educational goals is to help students understand the importance of giving back to their community, and these employees are living examples of that dedication.”

Major Michael Hicks, who serves in the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard and is a social studies teacher at Hardin Valley Academy, nominated the district for the award. “Knox County Schools and Hardin Valley Academy have always supported my military service,” he said. “I have taught for 10 years in Knox County Schools and have been placed on orders or had extended drill weekends multiple times. They have given me and my family 100% support while serving my country and are very deserving of Employer Support Freedom Award recognition.”

“From over 1,800 Freedom Award nominations nationwide, Knox County Schools was one of only 15 employers who are receiving this prestigious award for outstanding support of its employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve,” said Jim Mungenast, Tennessee ESGR State Chair. “With nearly 40 percent of our Nation’s military force in the Guard and Reserve, we rely on employers to support their Reserve component servicemembers - in that way, We All Serve! Congratulations, KCS!”

This year’s Freedom Award recipients will be formally recognized at the Pentagon in late August. A complete list of recipients is available at this link.