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Under Secretary of Defense, Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale, left, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Dennis McCarthy, right, presented the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award to Steve Ballard, chancellor, East Carolina University, center, Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Department of Defense honors ECU with Freedom Award

East Carolina University was honored by the Department of Defense with the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award on Sept. 23 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.  

The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. ECU was one of 15 employers nationwide to receive this year’s Freedom Award at a ceremony attended by members of Congress, senior military officials and business industry leaders.

Before the ceremony, Dr. Steve Ballard, chancellor of ECU, and the other Freedom Award recipients met with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and were thanked for superior support of the nation’s citizen soldiers. National Guard and Reserve service members or their families submitted almost 2,500 nominations for the award.

Nominated by the university’s director of general surgery residency, ECU is the third-largest university in North Carolina with more than 27,000 students. Named a “2010 Military-Friendly School” by GI Jobs Magazine, ECU maintains an office at Fort Bragg to educate service members about academic programs available to enrich their careers and service experience.  

ECU employees also support their fellow deployed co-workers by sending care packages and checking in on the families left behind during deployments. To further support their military students and employees, ECU has established “Essential Life Skills for Military Families (ELSMF),” a series of one-day workshops that equip Guard and Reserve service members and their families with family–readiness tools to use during deployment. ECU has received several Patriot Awards and the ESGR Pro Patria Award.

Almost one-half of the total U.S. military strength serves in the National Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.  



This story appeared originally in the Oct. 29, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at