King County Metro strives to be a place where all can thrive in their careers, including those who serve in the military. That’s why we’re thrilled to learn that a Metro employee has nominated King County for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s Freedom Award, the highest award given by the U.S. Department of Defense to an employer.

The Department of Defense gives the award to only 15 employers each year. The award publicly recognizes employers who provide exceptional support to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. King County employs 134 people who are members of the Active Reserves or National Guard, out of about 15,000 employees. Previously in 2020, out of more than 2,500 employers nominated, King County was named one of 30 finalists. Overall, King County has been nominated three times for this prestigious award.

The nomination for the award must come from a Guard or Reserve member employed by the organization, or a family member of someone serving. This year’s nomination came from a Metro Transit Operations employee who is currently deployed and due to return to work at Metro later this spring. The Department of Defense asks that employees on deployment not be named publicly for reasons of security.

“Once, after four months on orders away from home, I had to approach my base chief for a vacation request,” the nominating employee said. “At the time, I had only been back on the job for a week. You see, whereas I had been eager to appear unfazed by the stark transition back to civilian life, I had also quickly become overwhelmed by the daily tasks needed to re-integrate in a healthy way. As I began to explain my condition, she stopped me mid-sentence. ‘Take all the time you need,’ she said. ‘You let me know when you feel ready to return.’ It wasn’t merely a heartfelt gesture.”

Susan Navetski, manager of the Vets 4 HIRE program in Human Resources, loves to hear that kind of feedback.

“What we’re doing well, we hope, is supporting those who choose to serve their country,” Navetski said. “We do that because serving can be a hardship on the employee and their family, the employer and the employees who have to pick up the slack when a teammate is deployed.”

“King County being nominated by a Metro employee for the award makes us so proud because it’s indicative of how we’re doing to support members of our military and the choice they made to serve,” Navetski added.

The employee who nominated Metro agreed, saying, “In my humble opinion, the civilian leadership of this sort is essential to ensuring Reserve forces remain a ready and effective arm of military service around the globe.”

We’re elated the support provided by Metro to our employees who serve has enabled King County to be nominated again for this prestigious award, and we can’t wait to welcome our team member back from active-duty service.