I pulled into the parking lot of the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington Delaware, located – well — on the riverfront. It was well before the 1730 (5:30 p.m.) start time for Delaware’s big annual Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Banquet.
I went into the center, walked through the cavernous foyer (for lack of a better term). Its dark high gloss floor sparkled as I navigated hallway, which was dark except for the light from an open door at the end.
I could hear the muffled din of voices. I checked my watch, just to make sure. I was – as usual – early, but oddly not first. Far From it in fact.
I felt how Dorothy must have, the first time she entered the Emerald City. The bright lights and the throng of people were a marked difference from the dark, empty hallway.
Business leaders chatted here-and-there about the advantages of hiring veterans. And still others were introducing veterans they hired to other employers. It was a love fest about and for veterans and reserve component members and most of all, for employers who had the good sense to hire veterans in the first place.
Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy, and Coast Guard Non-Commissioned Officers chatted with Majors, Colonels and Generals who in return, chatted with Captains of industry about why national security was insured by employers who care about reserve component service members and veterans.
Gary Stockbridge, the Delaware ESGR chairman, opened the evening. Service members in creased uniforms posted the colors and the Delaware National Guard Choir sang the National Anthem. The deep soulful voices filled the room as the audience stood at attention with hands over hearts.
A wonderful meal ensued, highlighted by perhaps the finest strawberry shortcake I ever tasted. It was superb, but not the night’s highlight – that was reserved for employer recognition awards.
The awards presentation was kicked off by Delaware Gov. Markell who gave a rousing speech with a single succinct message, “Hiring veterans makes good business sense.”
It resonated through the hall.
Governor Markell presented several awards and eventually had to turn it over to Delaware National Guard Adjutant General, MG Frank Vavala and Mr. Stockbridge.
More than 30 awards were given out representing hundreds of employed veterans or reserve component service members.
Awards went to businesses small and large; municipalities; hospitals; and even state departments. In the end it was still about that same message, “Hiring veterans makes good business sense.”
If there were a single acclamation, that would have been it.
I packed up my camera and walked down that same dark corridor to my little red pickup truck. Moths bounced of the parking lot lights on the sultry night. I looked back watching veterans and employers leaving the Chase Center together and I couldn’t help but think, “Hiring veterans really does make good business sense and if this keeps up the word will get out, and we just might be okay.”