USA Basketball proclaims support for Guardsmen, Reservists
By Jessica Gonzalez , Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs
/ Published February 17, 2009
PHOENIX -- On the eve of the highly-anticipated NBA All-Star weekend, an event that once again catapulted Phoenix into the National spotlight; Arizona's most prominent political, business and military figures had cause for celebration.
At the Arizona Biltmore Resort, Arizona's own Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the Men's USA Basketball National Team, signed a statement of support for Arizona's chapter of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Feb. 12. ESGR is a Department of Defense organization that works to promote cooperation and understanding between Guard and Reserve members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment.
The occasion represented USA Basketball's continued recognition of the nearly 700,000 Civilian-Soldiers and -Airmen that have gone to war for the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
ESGR State Chairman Scott Essex was first to speak. In a gracious tone he thanked USA Basketball, and other supporting businesses on behalf of nearly 13,000 Arizona National Guard and Reserve members. He also recognized the dozens of volunteers that help ESGR achieve its employer-outreach goals.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon then extended the city's support for Arizona's servicemembers and veterans by offering the city and its resources in recognition and respect for their sacrifices, at one point noting that there is nothing more important to the City of Phoenix than assisting servicemembers in need.
Phoenix was the first major city in Arizona to support employees activated into service by providing differential pay to prevent financial hardship while deployed.
Reflecting on his world travels, Jerry Colangelo noted the pride he felt as an American overseas. Especially in Beijing, when the world converged to celebrate the 2008 Olympics, it was evident how much esteem U.S. armed forces had truly amassed.
Colangelo encountered servicemembers from foreign nations who spoke of the respect they had for America and how much its military aided in the protection of the world. Coming full circle Jerry expressed how much it meant to him and USA Basketball to be a part of ESGR. Supporting the Guard and Reserve, a seemingly basic responsibility of employers, took on a new meaning with USA Basketball's statement of support. Colangelo hopes his organization's participation in this program will help other companies see the need to reform or establish their own polices.
Flanked by a back drop of Arizona National Guard Citizen-Soldiers in Army Combat Uniform, Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, Arizona Adjutant General, took to the podium. Salazar made it his first point to express his thanks to each representative from the companies present, including Mayor Gordon. He reinforced that the statement signed creates a commitment of understanding in which USA Basketball honors its men and women who wish to serve their country.
He remarked that Mayor Gordon's program should be a model for cities around the country; TriWest Healthcare Alliance's benchmark program has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Arizona National Guard's Emergency Relief Fund; Creative Healthcare Solutions was recognized nationally with ESGR's Freedom Award in the small business category; Honeywell explicitly supports its servicemembers and in fact granted a prolonged leave of absence to Command Sgt. Maj. Max Butler enabling him to serve as the Arizona Army National Guard's senior enlisted advisor; and finally he welcomed Nationwide Vision Center as the newest member representing small businesses throughout the state.
Salazar had a final message for the guest of honor, Mr. Colangelo, a thank you for his public proclamation and support for Arizona's men and women in uniform, but also a prideful thank you for bringing home Olympic gold for men's basketball where it belongs. This no doubt pleased Colangelo. The smile on his face was undeniable.