Local businesses touted for accommodating employees who serve in Kansas National Guard

Area companies nominated for Freedom Award

Matt Davids, of Tonganoxie, a staff sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard, checks a natural gas well he maintains for Southern Star Natural Gas Pipeline. The company has been supportive of Guardsmen during their deployments, and has been nominated for the U.S. Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

When his country or state calls, Matt Davids responds.

The Lawrence resident knows he’ll have no trouble leaving or returning to his full-time civilian job because of deployments or training requirements with the Kansas Army National Guard.

That’s why Davids, 30, nominated his employer, Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline in Tonganoxie, for the U.S. Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

“They are very pro-American,” Davids, a Guard staff sergeant, said. “They are very concerned for our benefit as far as being a soldier.”

Eric Morris, 31, another Lawrence Guardsman and Southern Star employee, agreed.

“It’s an amazing company to work for as a National Guardsman,” Morris said of the natural gas storage firm headquartered in Owensboro, Ky.

A total of 37 Kansas Guardsmen and Reservists nominated their employers to receive the Freedom Award. Nominations also are made in other states. The award is designed to publicly recognize employers who provide exceptional support to Guard and Reserve employees. A national review committee will narrow the 3,202 nominees to 35 finalists. A national selection board will then select the final 15 recipients to be announced this summer.

A Lawrence business, Blue Sky Satellite, 2116 Del., also was nominated for the award. Manager Greg Bennett was surprised when informed of the nomination.

“How about that?” he said. “I had no idea. Wow.”

Blue Sky has several Guard employees working in Lawrence and Topeka, Bennett said. He doesn’t know who nominated the firm. Nominations for the award can be made by a Guard or Reserve member or from a family member.

Employers of Guard and Reserve members are required by law to allow those employees time off for military deployments and training. Companies must also allow them to return to their jobs when military commitments are over. But some firms go “above and beyond” legal requirements, said Chuck Bredahl, executive director of the Kansas committee for Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve.

Employers are not required to pay Guard and Reservists during commitments but some will make up the difference between military pay and civilian job pay, Bredahl said. Some also will continue insurance benefits for family members as well as assist families at home with other problems, he said.

Davids makes up for some of his time away for military duties by working flexible hours, said his Southern Star supervisor, Rick Bennett.

“He’s a pretty vital part of our crew,” he said of Davids.