BRISTOL — Mitch Bender didn’t know he was serving his country just by doing his job, but he found out Wednesday morning he was.
As the owner of Bravo Trailers, Bender has always instilled into his team that support of the Army and National Guard is important not only nationally but in work atmospheres as well.
“I just sort of assumed that everybody gave the Guard and the service time off for their training and rotations,” he said. “It affects a lot of things here because we’re not a big company, but our employees pitch in to help out.”
Enter Staff Sgt. Mitchell Becker, a newbie at Bravo in 2018. He’d been working there just two weeks when his call to duty came. Bender and his team had no qualms filling in and working a little bit harder to make sure the job got done, leaving his position at Bravo Trailers open for Becker when he returned.
“We have a much smaller active duty army that saves a lot of money because we have such a Guard and Reserve program that gets called up. A lot of the guys (serving) in (the Middle East) are Reserve guys who drop what they’re doing to serve. They make a sacrifice, but they believe in what they’re doing, and employer support is critical.”
Nearly 20 percent of Bravo’s 150 employees are veterans or currently serving.
On Wednesday, Bravo Trailers was recognized with the Seven Seals Award by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an office that is part of the Department of Defense. The Seven Seals Award is presented in recognition of significant individual or organizational achievement, initiative or support that promotes and supports the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve mission. The company was nominated by Becker in May 2018.
The company was also notified of its status as a Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award nominee, the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
“I didn’t realize,” Bender said. “I never served, but I’ve been very supportive of and understood that these guys protect us so I don’t have to do it. Sometimes you’ve got to put the country ahead of your immediate needs, or your business.”
The awards were presented at a company meeting by Indiana Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve volunteers Doug Schwartz and Jerry Hogan. They also honored employees who are veterans at the presentation.
Bender said he didn’t realize other employers weren’t as tolerant with their active service men and women. After learning that the act of keeping a job open for them, something he’s always done, was admirable enough for him to win a federal award, Bender decided to get more involved.
“I want to try to communicate the benefit to other companies of supporting the Guard,” he said. “People need to appreciate what the people in active duty and the reserves in National Guard do for us and I highly encourage other employers to support them.”