Department of Economic Development representatives presented the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office with the Flag of Freedom award Thursday to recognize the organization’s commitment to hiring veterans through the Show Me Heroes Program.
“This program is a way to help bring the veterans and the employers together, in which the employer is showing their support for our hometown veteran,” said Terry Beas, Veterans Representative for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “Once they have shown that support by pledging and actually hiring a veteran, we recognize that employer by presenting the Flag of Freedom award.”
The Flag of Freedom award consists of a plaque featuring an American flag patch from the combat uniform of a member of the Missouri National Guard worn while that Citizen-Soldier or Airman was deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The award presented Thursday contains the patch of Sgt. Douglas C. Pemberton, stationed in Mazar-I-Sharif Afghanistan. Pemberton is currently engaged in replacing infrared lights on Apache Helicopters with visible light components prior to the shipment of the helicopters back to Missouri.
“I’m honored,” said Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond. “Not only are we getting an award, but each one of these awards that is presented has a special individual story behind it. It’s really unique that Officer Pemberton that wore this Flag of Freedom, works on the Apaches that are housed just down the road at the Whiteman Air Force Base.”
The Pettis County Sheriff’s Office currently employees four veterans and has been in the Show Me Heroes Program since volunteering in 2011. As of April 2014, more than 3,862 Missouri businesses have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge and 6,703 veterans have been hired.
“I heard about this program about three years ago, so I took the initiative to go ahead and apply without being asked, because of the importance of being able to re-employ those people that have served our county and to give them an opportunity to continue their service to the citizens of Pettis County,” Bond said.
In 2012, Gov. Jay Nixon signed HB 1680 to further strengthen the Show-Me Heroes program. HB 1680 added an on-the-job (OJT) training component for returning National Guard and Reservists and recently-separated active duty service members that Show-Me Heroes employers agree to hire.
Through this OJT program, employers will be reimbursed for 50 percent of Show-Me Heroes participants’ wages during a contracted training period. These resources will help Missouri veterans obtain necessary skills to transition from military to civilian careers.
The sheriff said that transition is a little less stressful in his department, as the discipline learned in the military and knowledge of the organizational structure of the armed forces transfer to law enforcement careers well.
“Obviously I look for people that have special skills and the military brings a certain set that are advantageous to law enforcement. Law enforcement is a paramilitary operation, it’s not directly military, but it goes along the same lines,” Bond said. “So when you hire a member of the military they understand that command structure and the way situations flow in emergencies and things like that. That is one additional attribute that person has when we are looking to hire somebody, they already have that work set down.”
Two veterans currently employed with the department were on hand for the presentation. Officer Shannon Baliver, a Master at Arms in the U.S. Navy before joining the department, was overjoyed the department received the award.
“Honored, and privileged and moved,” said Baliver, with tears swelling in her eyes. “I was duel-military and I had to deal with my husband being in Iraq and going through the stuff a lot of these men and women do. They go through a lot, so seeing something like this makes me very proud. It takes your breath away. ”
Deputy Nick Gooch was artillery in the Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and also praises the program.
“It’s a good thing. I never really knew they had the award, but I think it’s a good thing that we receive it and other people receive it that deserves it,” Gooch said. “I think veterans in general — I mean everybody needs a job — but, they (employers) should be more proactive in hiring.”
Employers who wish to participate in Show-Me Heroes can visit showmeheroes.mo.gov to register and take the pledge. Once a company has done so, it is listed prominently on the Show-Me Heroes website, which highlights veteran-friendly employers across Missouri. The listing includes contact information for the business and links to their website.
Those employers receive a special certificate, signed by the governor, and a decal to display at their location. The Show-Me Heroes website is a resource for job seekers and employers which include articles on improving the job search and links for employers to report their Veteran and Service Member hires.